Groups across Political Spectrum Tell Congress to Include Federal Scientists in Pending Whistleblower Bill
Congress encouraged to include federal scientists in whistleblower bill
WASHINGTON (March 18, 2008) – Four dozen groups spanning the political spectrum today sent a letter to the Senate urging lawmakers to include federal scientists in pending legislation designed to protect whistleblowers. The coalition of academic, consumer, environmental, government reform and health groups — which includes the Consumer Federation of America, Common Cause, Federation of American Scientists, Liberty Coalition and Rutherford Institute — was organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
"Scientists are less inclined to speak out when they have no protection against retaliation," said Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "We must encourage federal scientists to report when research is censored or manipulated. Bringing misconduct to light can help protect American families from unsafe consumer products, unsafe drugs, and a polluted environment."
Sometime in the next few weeks the House and Senate are expected to reconcile differences between their versions of the whistleblower bill. In general, both versions strengthen protections for federal workers who report waste, fraud and abuse. But the final bill may not extend those protections to federal scientists who speak out when federal research is distorted or suppressed. The House legislation includes specific protections for scientists, but the Senate version does not.
"Federal government scientists play a crucial role in providing data and scientific analyses to policy makers so they can make the best, most informed decisions about our environment, health and national security," the coalition letter states. "Whether it is toy safety, drug efficacy or air quality, we count on federal agencies to use independent and unbiased science to protect us from harm." (For the letter, go to: www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/Groups-Urge-Whistleblower-Protections-for-Scientists.pdf.)
Federal scientists need whistleblower protection now more than ever, Grifo said. Over the last few years private groups such as UCS and news organizations have documented what appears to be a growing incidence of political interference in federal science. For example, more than a third of the nearly 3,400 federal scientists at nine agencies who responded to UCS questionnaires since 2005 reported they fear retaliation for openly expressing concerns about their agency's work.
The letter's 48 signatories include: American Association of Law Libraries, American Association of University Professors, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, Association of American Publishers, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Californians Aware, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Inquiry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Common Cause, Concerned Foreign Service Officers, Conservation Northwest, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Defenders of Wildlife, Doctors for Open Government, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Essential Information, Ethics in Government Group, Federation of American Scientists, Georgians for Open Government, Government Accountability Project, Health Integrity Project, Justice Through Music, Liberty Coalition, Minnesota Coalition on Government Information, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Research Center for Women & Families, National Women's Health Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Work Environment Council, OMB Watch, OpenGovernment.org, PEN American Center, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, The Multiracial Activist, The New Grady Coalition, The Ornithological Council, The Rutherford Institute, The Student Health Integrity Project, U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Western Nebraska Resources Council.