Scientists at the US Geological Survey (USGS) are the latest to be subjected to controls on research, according to media reports. As per the new rules, screening is mandatory for all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study a vast range of subjects – from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, including minor reports and prepared talks.
According to the new requirements, USGS' communications office must be alerted about articles containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature. Also, findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding, should be communicated to the agency's director and its communications officer prior to submission for publication. Top officials at the Interior Department's scientific arm state that the rules only standardise what scientists must do to ensure the quality of their work, and give a heads-up to the agency's public relations staff.
The changes amount to an overhaul of commonly accepted procedures for all scientists, not just those in government, based on anonymous peer reviews. Effective immediately, USGS supervisors will demand to see comments of outside peer reviewers' as well any exchanges between the scientists seeking to publish their findings and the reviewers.
Some of USBS scientists have expressed fears that political interference may lead to censorship of their work . See , "USGS Scientists Object To Stricter Review Rules" in the Dec. 14th Washington Post
Posted by Katie Newman at December 15, 2006 9:22 AM