Public Communication by USDA Staff Restricted

Silencing Science Tracker

Public Communication by USDA Staff Restricted

In January 2017, the Trump transition team for the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a memo to staff directing them not to send out press releases, post on social media or blogs, or update websites and to consult with senior officials before speaking to the media.

UpdateOn August 14, 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published the results of a survey of USDA and other federal government scientists. The results indicate that public communication by USDA scientist continues to be restricted. 78 percent of USDA scientists surveyed indicated that they “must obtain agency preapproval to communication with journalists.” Moreover, 38% of USDA scientists surveyed “disagreed or strongly disagreed” when asked whether “they can speak to the public or the news media about their scientific findings, including at conferences and professional meetings.” One scientist surveyed noted that additional restrictions have been imposed on conference attendance, stating:

“There have been new travel restrictions that have been placed on us that require us to fill out a ‘doodle poll’ on any upcoming conference travel to monitor quantity of scientists travelling to conferences. This is on top of the line management approval of conference travel that has always been there. Penalty for not doing the doodle poll is a required memo to the administration explaining the reasons why the new regs were not followed.”

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