Energy Department Protects Scientists From Trump With New Policy

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As scientists work overtime to protect climate and environment data from the incoming anti-science Trump administration, the Department of Energy announced a strengthened “scientific integrity” policy that ensures they can do their work without fear or intimidation.

In December, the Trump transition team sent a list of 74 questions to DOE, including a list of all employees and contractors who work on climate policies. The agency refused to deliver the list, but that doesn’t end their great concern over how scientists will be treated under Trump.

“Science and technology lie at the heart of the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) mission. Through its far-reaching support of research at the 17 DOE National Laboratories and at hundreds of universities, other research institutions, and industry across the country, the Department is a major contributor to the Nation’s overall research and development effort,” says DOE. Because of this, DOE is committed to “uphold the highest standards in sponsorship, management, and conduct of research. Among these standards is the core value of scientific integrity.”

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Under the policy:

  • No one can ask or direct any researcher to alter scientific findings or conclusions, and no one can suppress, intimidate or coerce any employee or contractor to do so.
  • Scientists, engineers and other employees are encouraged to share their scientific findings and views, including talking to the media, at public forums, and on social media.
  • Employees and contractors have the right to review any press release or report before it is released, if it substantially relies on their research or is released under their name.
  • Staff are encourage to attend conferences and publish in relevant journals
  • A “scientific integrity official” will be designated by the Energy Secretary to make sure the policy is enforced.
  • strong protections for whistleblowers

The policy strengthens one issued by President Obama in 2009 in reaction to GW Bush’s fiddling with scientific reports. It called for all executive branch agencies to institute “appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency.”

Read our article, Victory in Fighting Harassment of US Climate Scientists.

Frantically Copying Data

For the past month or so, scientists at DOE have been frantically copying climate data onto independent servers to protect it from the Trump administration.

The Sierra Club is helping by filing Freedom of Information requests at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. This prevents information from being destroyed or made inaccessible. So far, they have filed requests for data on greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and power plants.

“There’s a lot of concern about environmental data writ large,” Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg. The federal government houses data that is widely used by local governments, businesses and researchers to guide decisions, such as how quickly coastlines are changing and how that impacts new infrastructure they are considering, for example.

“When you have people leading transition teams who have built careers out of questioning climate change science and questioning if there’s some kind of grand conspiracy to defraud the public, there’s no guarantee they will be terribly sympathetic to keep that information,” Halpern told Bloomberg.

Under GW Bush, scientific information was altered at the EPA and research libraries were closed. The same happened under Canada’s recent right-wing government.

Read our article, Canada’s Scientists Muzzled To The Point of Fear.

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