Politicizing Science at the US Dept. of Energy

Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

How does encouraging scientists to criticize government policy enhance scientific integrity?

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The US Department of Energy (DOE) describes itself as the “largest federal sponsor of basic research in physical sciences.” It consumes $32 billion in federal spending annually, funding numerous projects connected to climate change and renewable energy.

Earlier this month, the DOE decided its scientific integrity policy, last updated in 2014, was wholly inadequate. With nine days remaining in the Obama administration, energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled a brand new policy at the National Press Club.

The old policy was three pages long. The new one runs to seven pages, and represents a dramatic departure from what had been the status quo.

Under the old policy, DOE-affiliated scientists were only permitted to speak about scientific matters to the media or at public events after they’d received permission from “their immediate supervisor and their public affairs office.” By referencing “proposed interviews” that didn’t…

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