About

Silencing Science Tracker

About

The Silencing Science Tracker is a joint initiative of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. It is intended to record reports of federal, state, and local government attempts to “silence science” since the November 2016 election.

We define “silencing science” to include any action that has the effect of restricting or prohibiting scientific research, education, or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information. We divide such actions into 7 categories as follows:

Category Examples
Government Censorship
  • Changing the content of websites and documents to suppress or distort scientific information.
  • Making scientific data more difficult to find or access.
  • Restricting public communication by scientists.
Self-Censorship
  • Scientists voluntarily changing the content of websites and documents to suppress or distort scientific information, potentially in response to political pressure.

We note that it is often difficult to determine whether self-censorship is occurring and/or its cause. We do not take any position on the accuracy of any individual report on self-censorship.

Budget Cuts
  • Reducing funding for existing agency programs involving scientific research or scientific education.
  • Cancelling existing grants for scientific research or scientific education.

We do not include, in the “budget cuts” category, government decisions to refuse new grant applications or funding for new agency programs.

Personnel Changes
  • Removing scientists from agency positions or creating a hostile work environment.
  • Appointing unqualified individuals to, or failing to fill, scientific positions.
  • Changing the composition of scientific advisory board or other bodies to remove qualified scientists or add only industry-favored members.
  • Eliminating government bodies involved in scientific research or education or the dissemination of scientific information.
Research Hindrance
  • Destroying data needed to undertake scientific research.
  • Preventing or restricting the publication of scientific research.
  • Pressuring scientists to change research findings.
Bias and Misrepresentation
  • Engaging in “cherry picking” or only disclosing certain scientific studies (e.g., that support a particular conclusion).
  • Misrepresenting or mischaracterizing scientific studies.
  • Disregarding scientific studies or advice in policy-making.
Interference with Education
  • Changing science education standards to prevent or limit the teaching of proven scientific theories.
  • Requiring or encouraging the teaching of discredited or unproven scientific theories.
  • Preventing the use of factually accurate textbooks and other instructional materials (e.g., on religious grounds).

The tracker does not include legislation affecting scientific research, education, or discussion.

All tracker entries are drawn from media reports, with most taken from national news sources. We do not take any position on the accuracy of those reports. Please contact Romany Webb (rwebb@law.columbia.edu) to recommend relevant media reports we may have missed or provide responses or corrections to media reports we have included

Please note, we cannot provide assistance to researchers and/or others who believe they may have been the target of government attempts to silence science. If you believe you may have been targeted, we recommend you contact an attorney. You may also contact one or more of the organizations listed on the resources page. If you wish to stay anonymous, please be sure to discuss confidentiality issues before disclosing information to any organization or person, including those listed here.