Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) introduced a bill this week that aims to protect and promote ‘scientific integrity’. The legislation builds on policies from former President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order, which required federal agencies to define how they planned to safeguard scientific integrity.
The bill, which has 27 co-signers and has been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, aims to block attempts by politicians to tamper or suppress scientific results that go against an administration’s position on a given issue. It would also safeguard open communication and transparency in the scientific community, in an attempt to protect scientists from censorship.
“Few things are more un-American than censorship, especially when it would keep the public in the dark on vital public health and safety information, such as climate change and sea level rise,” Nelson said. “Any attempt to intimidate or muzzle scientists must be stopped.”
Some of the new administration’s actions have pro-science lobbyists, like the Union of Concern Scientists, worried about its commitment to scientific integrity. “If ever there was a time that such a bill is needed, it is now,” Center for Science & Democracy research director Gretchen Goldman wrote.
“The Trump administration has already revealed its disrespect for the use of science in federal decision-making. From instating sweeping gag orders on federal scientists right out of the gate, to across-the-board hiring freezes and disruptive holds on grants and contracts, early indications suggest that this administration is not likely to be a leader in championing scientific integrity in government decision-making,” Goldman added.
The proposed bill would amend a law from 2007 regulating federal policies for science education and research. The authorized spending levels in the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act expired in 2010, but the rest of its provisions remain in effect.