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.

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About Holly

Holly Doremus is the James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation at UC Berkeley. Doremus brings a strong background in life sciences and a comm…

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