Staffers at several federal agencies dealing with scientific data and environmental policy—including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, National Park Service, Department of Transportation and Health and Human Services—have reportedly received various degrees of formal instruction barring them from speaking to press or using social media.
While some officials say the policies are temporary and meant to help ease the transition, other employees worry that the breadth of the crackdown is unique and may hint at a heavy hand from the new administration regarding scientific data.
"These actions will stem the free flow of information and have a chilling effect on staff in these agencies," Sam Adams, U.S. director of the World Resources Institute, said. "This flies in the face of effective policymaking which requires an open exchange of ideas, supported by the best science and evidence available. Curtailing communications from these agencies will hinder their ability to provide clean air and water and protect people's health across the country. The administration should lift these bans as soon as possible and ensure that the role of science is respected within our government agencies."
Enforcement of these gag orders seems to vary by agency. After the Twitter handle for the Badlands National Park went rogue and sent out several climate change-related facts Tuesday afternoon, the tweets were ominously deleted, with the park blaming a former employee without "authorization" to use the account.
However, the USDA, following public outcry from its gag order barring researchers from using media materials to explain science to the public, rescinded the order for its research arm Tuesday evening. Worth watching: Wilbur Ross, Trump's nominee for Commerce who would oversee NOAA, stated in a letter Monday night he would not "keep peer reviewed research from the public."
For a deeper dive: