Stabenow, Peters Join Colleagues to Introduce Legislation Protecting Scientists from Government Interference

Friday, February 10, 2017

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters joined 26 of their Senate colleagues to introduce legislation that will protect scientists working for the federal government from political interference. The Senators introduced the legislation in response to recent reports that the Trump Administration placed gag orders on employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and halted public communication from other agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Since November, more than 5,000 scientists, including many Nobel Prize winners, have signed an open letter urging President Trump and Congress to preserve and protect scientific integrity.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the Trump Administration has attempted to silence scientists and prevent them from doing their job,” said Senator Stabenow.  “Families in Michigan expect our government agencies to make decisions that protect our air, water, and quality of life based on sound science, not political ideology or special interests.”

“Scientific research shouldn’t be guided by political ideologies - it deals in verifiable facts, hard data and proven evidence,” said Senator Peters. “Efforts to silence scientists because their results don’t fit a certain political agenda is not only wrong, it threatens to undermine our nation’s role as a leader in scientific discovery and innovative breakthroughs in areas ranging from medical research to advanced manufacturing to climate change.”

The legislation would promote scientific integrity and protect scientists from political interference by:

  • Reaffirming the principle of open communication of scientific findings and preventing the suppression of scientific findings;
  • Ensuring that scientists are allowed to communicate their findings with the public, press, and Congress;
  • Directing federal agencies to develop scientific integrity policies that include whistleblower protections; and,
  • Requiring scientific integrity policies to be posted online and given to all new hires.

Senators Stabenow and Peters introduced the legislation along with Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Cory Booker (NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (DE), Chris Coons (DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (OR).

Last Congress, Peters led the effort to introduce the bipartisan American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which was signed into law in January. This legislation updates federal research and development policies and reaffirms the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) merit-based peer review process for awarding grants. This process relies on experts within the scientific community to evaluate and select research proposals, and is considered the international gold standard for prioritizing research.