Letters to Agency Administrators Regarding Media Policies
March 15, 2007
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson
Environmental Protection Agency
Room 3000 Ariel Rio Building
1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator Johnson,
In March of 2006, after several allegations of agency interference with conclusions and statements made by federal scientists in their reports, particularly in the area of climate change, Dr. John H. Marburger, III, head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, met with all of the principal science officials from all of the federal agencies and departments. In that meeting, in a follow-up letter and in a subsequent meeting, Dr. Marburger urged them adopt media contact policies similar to those issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on March 31, 2006.
The NASA policy on the release of information to news and information media was promulgated after a series of media reports that NASA officials had restricted media access to scientists, particularly if they were addressing global warming issues. Other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also had taken steps to restrict their scientists or rewrite or eliminate their scientific conclusions about global warming, sometimes by including statements that were not scientifically supported.
The NASA policy is not without its shortcomings, but it does attempt to encourage "the free exchange of ideas, data and information as part of scientific and technical inquiry. Scientific and technical information from or about Agency programs and projects will be accurate and unfiltered." It also prohibits any changes in scientific or technical data or in the meaning of programmatic content by public affairs officers and establishes the right of scientists to talk to the media. "NASA scientists may draw conclusions and may, consistent with this policy, communicate those conclusions to the media." NASA employees may also present personal views so long as they identify them as such. "NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media," pp. 1-2, and 5...