USDA insists it isn’t suppressing scientists’ communications with public

USDA insists it isn’t suppressing scientists’ communications with public

In wake of severe criticism over its gag order on scientists communicating with the public, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) claimed that it isn't suppressing its scientists' communications with the public.

The federal agency was flooded with harsh comments and criticism after news broke that it e-mailed its researchers and ordered them not to speak to the press and make any press release. However, the agency later insisted that its researchers can still publish peer-reviewed journal articles and give media interviews.

Christopher Bentley, communications director for the federal agency's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), said that a "misunderstanding" led to the confusion.

Bentley said in a statement, "What happened yesterday was a misunderstanding. The announcement that our administrator sent to staff last night was less a rescinding of anything than it was a clarification. This is what has happened at the transition of every administration. it's just a pause."

Some of the Trump administration's recent actions are being seen as attempts to suppress public access to scientific data, including instituting social media restrictions at the National Park Service (NPA) and issuance of the EPA's internal guidance, requiring its researchers to seek approval before any media interview.

However, USDA's scientific integrity policy states that any political appointee or employee can't interfere with distribution of scientific research data/results. It includes not only scientific publications, but also other ways of communications with the public that might have a broader reach.


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