Public Communication by NPS Scientists Restricted

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, including extensive “censorship and self-censorship.”

The survey results suggest that public communication by scientists at the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) has been restricted. One NPS scientist participating in the survey said: “We are no longer authorized to share scientific findings with the public if they center on climate change.” This was confirmed by other survey participants. Notably:

  • 61 percent of NPS scientists surveyed indicated that “they have to obtain agency preapproval to communicate with journalists.”
  • 41 percent of NPS scientists surveyed  reported a “deterioration in their ability to communicate scientific work to the public and the media.”
  • 37 percent of NPS scientists surveyed “disagreed or strongly disagreed” when asked whether they can “speak to the public or the media about their scientific findings.”