Issue Date: June 25, 2007
Federal scientists are unclear on media policies
A survey by the Government Accountability Office of 1,811 researchers at three government science agencies found that many federal scientists are confused by their agency's policies on disseminating information. Overall, GAO found that policies on publishing results and on speaking to the news media at NASA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and the National Institute of Standards & Technology are unclear and need to be updated. For example, GAO says that although NASA and NOAA leaders have told researchers that they may discuss potential policy implications of their research as long as they identify such views as personal opinions, fewer than one-half of researchers surveyed believe they are free to discuss their views. The report (GAO-07-653) recommends that communications policies be clarified and that the agencies provide training to inform researchers and public affairs staff about these policies. The study was requested by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies, because of concerns that some government scientists have been restricted from talking about their results on controversial topics.
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