AGU concerned over US limits to science communication

January 26, 2017  - By

Logo: AGU

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) wrote to U.S. federal agency heads on Jan. 26, in response to reports that the administration under President Donald Trump has instructed federal agencies to stop communicating with the media, policymakers and the public.

“The signals are not encouraging, and they’re alarming, and they’re causing a lot of fear in the scientific community,” Christine McEntee, AGU chief executive and executive director, told the Washington Post.

“I’ve never seen the scientific community so concerned,” Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told the Post.This goes way beyond funding. When fake news is accepted as just one of the alternate approaches, then there are serious problems to be addressed.”


Logo: AGU

March for Science. The AGU is among several professional scientific organizations expressing concerns. A March for Science is being planned in Washington, D.C.

When asked about the march, McEntee told the Post, “If it’s a neutral and nonpartisan voice for the value of science and the work of scientists, we would consider endorsing it, but we need to find out more information.”

The march now has a Facebook page, a Twitter handle and a website, as well as a Google form through which those interested can sign up to help. Organizers told that plans are to release both a date for the event and a platform statement by Jan. 30.

Scientific Integrity. The letter from AGU expresses concern over news reports about violations of scientific integrity and interference with public access to and communication of scientific information.

In the letter, AGU emphasized scientific integrity and transparency as critical to “advancing national security, a strong economy, public health, and food security.” AGU calls on the agencies, and the administration, to reverse policies that threaten scientific integrity and open communication as soon as possible and urges that they not be reinstated.

“Access to scientific information improves and informs many aspects of our everyday lives,” McEntee said in a press release about the letter. “AGU will be monitoring to see if the policies have been lifted and whether the scientific information that is currently available remains. It is critical to our economic success, national security and public health that the American people continue to receive to the most up-to-date scientific research and information.”

AGU has a position statement related to scientific integrity entitled, “AGU Supports Free and Open Communication of Scientific Findings.” The statement was adopted in 2011 and reaffirmed in September 2016. In late 2016, AGU launched a petition calling on the new administration to make the appointment of a scientific advisor a top priority. The petition has nearly 9,000 signatures.

Communication is one of AGU’s cornerstones. According to its letter masthead, “AGU galvanizes a community of Earth and space scientists that collaboratively advances and communicates science and its power to ensure a sustainable future.”

Below is the text of an email to members that AGU issued the same day. AGU is asking U.S. members to send a copy of the letter to their congresspersons.

Dear AGU member,

Whether you live in the United States or not, you likely have heard the recent news reports about U.S. federal agencies instructing scientists to cease communication of their research to the media, policymakers and in some case, the public. While there are reports and rumors that many of those orders are being rescinded or otherwise qualified, we have heard from members around the world expressing concern about the impact such actions could have on scientific integrity and the open and unfettered communication of science.

AGU shares your concerns. Science plays a critical role in advancing national security, a strong economy, public health, and food security, and as such, scientists must be allowed to share their work directly and openly with the public. That’s why we issued a letter to the federal scientific agencies today asking that the restrictions be lifted soon so that critical, up-to-date scientific information remains readily available to the public.

For those of you in the U.S., we strongly encourage you to consider sending a copy of this letter to your members of Congress. AGU’s Action Center platform provides an easy option for sending such communications, and it can be accessed here. If you are in the U.S. (and even for those of you who aren’t), I also encourage you to sign up for AGU’s Science Policy Alerts, where we will be sharing regular updates and making recommendations for how you can take action.

In closing, please know that AGU intends to be a strong and active voice for the important role science plays in our global society, and for the need to protect scientific integrity and scientists’ ability to perform and communicate their research without political interference.

Eric and Chris

Eric Davidson, AGU President
Christine McEntee, AGU Executive Director and CEO

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