Federal scientists could get increased whistleblower protection
Before it passed the economic stimulus bill on Wednesday, the House grafted on the text of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, H.R. 985, from the previous Congress. That bill, which passed the House last year, would (among other things) have extended whistleblower protection to federal workers who reveal the dissemination of “false or misleading” scientific information or actions that “compromise the validity” of federal research or analysis.
Enhanced protection for scientific whistleblowers is a favorite cause of advocates for scientific integrity, many of whom joined this statement endorsing the House’s action. As I have argued, however, back-end whistleblower protection is no substitute for reducing undue pressure on federal scientists on the front end, and could potentially “provide a high-profile avenue for complaints by agency scientists disgruntled by policy choices within the legitimate range of agency discretion.” Should the new whistleblower provisions become law, legislators should at a minimum not assume that they alone will solve the scientific integrity problem.