Whitsleblower protections inadequate for federal scientists, group says

Federal scientists report suppression, manipulation of scientific/technical reports by agency managers, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

The Obama administration has yet to make good on its promise to provide better whistleblower protections to federal scientists, according to one advocacy group.

In a report posted online July 8, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said new scientific whistleblower rules were to be in place by July 9, 2009, but the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy missed the deadline without explanation, despite an executive memorandum telling them to draw up new rules.

As a consequence, PEER said, federal scientists continue to report the same sort of suppression and manipulation of scientific and technical reports by agency managers that occurred under the previous administration.

“The atmosphere under Obama for federal scientists remains largely unchanged from the Bush era,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Federal agency science is still manipulated for political reasons largely because there are still no rules against it.”

Ruch pointed to the federal response to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an example of an ongoing lack of scientific transparency and candor in agency decision-making.

According to PEER, the Environmental Protection Agency approved—without any scientific support—widespread application of oil dispersants deep underwater, despite the fact that these chemicals were designed for surface application. EPA lacked even baseline information about oil droplet size—information it needed to measure how effective the dispersant is at breaking up the oil slicks, PEER said. And, the group said, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has “flip-flopped on release of scientific observations about the size and nature of swelling underwater oil plumes.”

 

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