“The August 20 decision by the Trump Administration to not renew the charter for the Sustained National Climate Assessment Federal Advisory Committee is yet another example of the administration’s increasingly blatant attempts to ignore and dismiss scientific information.
At the interface of science and society, the federal government and its research agencies play a critically important role. The capacity to understand and effectively address important policy issues depends on access to relevant scientific and technical expertise. Scientifically accurate information builds the foundation for public policies that promote the well-being of people and communities….”
Abstract: In recent years, there has been a great deal of controversy over political control of communications by government scientists. Legitimate interests can be found on both sides of the equation. This essay argues for adoption and implementation of a framework that accommodates those interests—a framework that allows advance notice to political officials, including the White House, without hindering the free flow of scientific information.
“Publish your research with an Open Access publisher. If your study is behind a paywall, or requires a library subscription for access, the public, the press, and politicians are less likely to take an interest your work. It’s hard to communicate the value of your research if the study itself is unavailable….”
“The federal OA policies are under Trump’s control but below his radar. He has no opinion about them, and neither do his top advisors. On the other hand, he and his top advisors have a strong hostility to science, almost a resentment, and show it by cutting the budgets of the science funding agencies, taking some OA databases offline, and and even bar?ring some publicly-funded researchers from communicating directly with the public (except through their publications). All this reduces the volume of OA to publicly-funded research, past and future.
The Environmental Protection Agency, which has an OA policy, is especially vulnerable because Trump-style Republicans believe that protecting the environment is bad for business. They’ve had it in their sights for years, and will either slash it or lay it down. But this shows the Trump approach. He doesn’t oppose OA as such; he just favors corporations and deregulation. OA is collateral damage, along with much bigger things, like the planet.”
“On the face of it, the bill is in line with what a lot of researchers argue for: open access not just for journal papers but for data too. The big idea is that this will make science more transparent and replicable, and decrease the friction for one lab to evaluate the work of another. (Psychology and a number of other fields have been dealing with an ongoing “crisis” in which they’re finding past research doesn’t replicate. Open access is a way to rectify it.)”
“While it is illegal to destroy government data, removing data from accessible agency websites can effectively impede accessibility. Revising websites or creating other barriers to the underlying information can make it very difficult to find vital information. Also, much of the scientific information painstakingly collected over past decades, and costing hundreds of billions of dollars, remains held only by the government, and it is distributed through thousands of servers in hundreds of federal departments where it might not be backed up, making it difficult or impossible to find. Once information becomes sequestered, it becomes nearly impossible to know what has been lost if one doesn’t know what originally was there.
Thus, there is growing anxiety developing among many scientists who rely on the vast cache of data housed on government servers that key data may become sequestered or unavailable for public access. Many researchers further fear a crusade by the Trump administration against the scientific information provided to the public; the National Centers for Environmental Information may be one federal agency especially vulnerable to having vital information sequestered or removed from ready access. The proposed deep budget cuts for several government agencies have added to the fears of important databases being selectively reduced or removed….”
“There are two large ways that the Trump administration and Republican Congress could reduce the number of OA publications arising from federally funded research. First, Trump could require federal funding agencies to drop or dilute their OA policies. Second, Congress could cut their budgets, reducing the amount of research they could fund. Or both.
So far there’s no sign of the first danger materializing. (I’ll do my best to keep you posted.) But there are now signs of the second….”
“The unfettered exchange and careful preservation of information are fundamental to democracy, progress, and intellectual freedom. The critical research and scholarship conducted by government entities and academic institutions worldwide safeguard and support human rights, public health, the environment, artistic and literary enterprise, scientific and technological innovation, and much more. This scholarship is critical for informed discourse and policy development throughout society. As such, the fruits of governmental and scholarly research—the data and documentation generated and released—must remain publicly available and must not be suppressed, endangered, or altered to serve political ends….OSC and the UC Libraries are working to protect public access to government data and research in the event that the original sources for these materials should be compromised. In the coming weeks, OSC and librarians on each of the UC campuses will identify specific actions to be taken to ensure that research data, publications, and scholarship remain accessible and discoverable. These efforts are not intended to supplant the authoritative sources for government data, publications, and information. Rather, we are working to make certain that these materials remain shielded from inappropriate political influence or suppression. We support similar information rescue and preservation efforts taking place around the country and encourage other institutions to join in this commitment. …”
“Had an interesting thing happen today with a response from a potential peer reviewer who declined to do a peer review because of concerns about US government oversight.
We carry out an open, named peer review at GigaScience, and had asked a researcher at a government research center (who has peer reviewed for us before), to review a new paper. The potential reviewer wrote back that in the current uncertainty in the US, as an employee of the government, he/she did not feel that he/she could agree to do an open peer review.
While there are no specific bans on releasing information by researchers in government organizations, there seems to be a sense of uncertainty about participating in open science activities.
Open peer review, of course, already has an underlying fear of reprisal of some sort from grumpy authors who’s paper was rejected- but I had never heard it in the sense of a generalized fear of government reprisals.
This was very chilling to me- that researchers are considering what information they are willing to share out of concern of a government response….”
After previously taking down an OA database on cruelty animals, and after triggering public protests, the USDA put the database back up.
“Today, APHIS is posting the first batch of annual reports of research institutions and inspection reports for certain Federal research facilities that the Agency regulates under the Animal Welfare Act. The reports posted are part of a comprehensive review of the documents the Agency removed from its website in early February and are in the same redacted form as before.
To conduct the review, the entire agency search tool database was taken off line….
The reposted information can be found on our website, here….”