FWS Scientists Prevented from Discussing or Researching “Politically Contentious” Topics

On August 14, 2018, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published the results of a survey of 63,000 scientists employed by the federal government. The survey, which was conducted by UCS and Iowa State University in early 2018, gathered information about scientific integrity at 16 federal agencies. According to USC, the results “demonstrate significant challenges related to the development and use of science” within federal agencies.

The survey results suggest that there has been extensive political interference in scientific research at the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Notably, 24 percent of FWS scientists surveyed indicated that they had been “asked or told to avoid working on specific topics deemed politically contentious,” and 30 percent reported being “asked or told to omit certain politically contentious words from their scientific work products.” One FWS scientist provided an indication of the types of words viewed as “politically contentious,” stating:

“At a staff meeting, staff were advised to avoid certain sensitive words when preparing official agency correspondence; words such as (but not limited to) ‘climate change’ ‘Obama administration’ ‘previous administration’ ‘science’ and ‘disagree.'”