Coalition Letter regarding Federal Scientists and Whistleblowing


March 18, 2008

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

In the next few weeks, House and Senate negotiators are working to reconcile bills to enhance whistleblower protections for federal employees. Your leadership on this issue will help to ensure that the final version of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act contains specific protections for federal scientists who blow the whistle on the suppression or distortion of federal research or technical information. Such protections, which were incorporated into the House passed whistleblower bill, H.R. 985, are crucial for the health and safety of all Americans.

Federal government scientists play a crucial role in providing data and scientific analyses to policy makers so they can make the best, most informed decisions about our environment, health, and national security. Whether it is toy safety, drug efficacy, or air quality, we count on federal agencies to use independent and unbiased science to protect us from harm.

Federal law has defined a whistleblower as someone who reports waste, fraud and "abuse of authority." This definition, however, fails to address the problems facing too many federal scientists.

Surveys, investigations, and media reports increasingly show that federal science is being manipulated, suppressed, and distorted. Indeed, of the nearly 3,400 federal scientists across nine agencies who have responded to questionnaires by the Union of Concerned Scientists, more than 1,100 scientists report that they fear retaliation for openly expressing concerns about their agency’s mission-driven work.

Scientists who expose the suppression and distortion of their work should be protected for alerting the public to potential dangers. For this reason, any comprehensive whistleblower law that Congress approves this year must define "abuse of authority" to include the suppression and/or distortion of federal research and technical information.

Specific whistleblower protections would not give federal scientists the right to usurp legitimate supervisory oversight or policy making that appropriately is delegated to political appointees and senior managers, nor would it allow them to violate federal law shielding national security and proprietary information. Rather, they would afford a federal scientist whose work has been suppressed or distorted protection from reprisal if the scientist publicly reported these attempts.

At a time when Congress has serious concerns about an aging federal workforce and the United States is facing unique scientific and technical challenges, it is crucial that federal agencies do all they can to retain their most experienced and skilled scientists and technicians. Whistleblower protections for scientists and researchers would improve morale at federal agencies and help to retain and recruit dedicated civil servants.

We urge you to advocate for a final bill that would provide protection from retaliation for exposing attempts to censor, distort, or suppress any scientific or technical research. Congress must recognize that scientists must be able to work to protect the health and safety of Americans, without interference, and should be able to speak out about distorted or suppressed scientific findings without retribution.



Mary Alice Baish

Acting Washington Affairs Representative

American Association of Law Libraries


John W. Curtis, Ph.D.

Director of Research and Public Policy

American Association of University Professors


Christopher Finan


American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression


Lynne E. Bradley

Director, Office of Government Relations

American Library Association


Patricia S. Schroeder

President & CEO

Association of American Publishers


Wayne C. Shields

President and CEO

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals


Terry Francke

General Counsel

Californians Aware


William Snape

Senior Counsel

Center for Biological Diversity


Paul Kurtz


Center for Inquiry


Kirsten Stade

Program Manager, Integrity of Science Project

Center for Science in the Public Interest


Dave Werntz

Science and Conservation Director

Conservation Northwest


Sarah Dufendach

Vice President for Legislative Affairs

Common Cause


Rachel Weintraub

Director of Product Safety and Senior Counsel

Consumer Federation of America


Ellen Bloom

Assistant Director of the Washington Office

Consumers Union


Jamie Rappaport Clark

Executive Vice President

Defenders of Wildlife


Dr. Jim Murtagh

Doctors for Open Government


Susan A. Holmes

Senior Legislative Representative



Jon Hunter

Policy Director

Endangered Species Coalition


John Richard


Essential Information


George Anderson

Ethics in Government Group


Daniel Hirsch

Executive Committee

Concerned Foreign Service Officers


Steven Aftergood

Project Director, Project on Government Secrecy

Federation of American Scientists


Gwen Marshall


Georgians for Open Government


Tom Devine

Legal Director

Government Accountability Project


Helen Salisbury, M.D.

Health Integrity Project


Brett Kimberlin


Justice Through Music


Mike Kelly

Fish Biologist, Former Whistleblower


Michael D. Ostrolenk

Co-Founder/National Director

Liberty Coalition


Mary Treacy

Executive Director

Minnesota Coalition on Government Information


Joan E. Bertin, Esq.

Executive Director

National Coalition Against Censorship


Diana Zuckerman, Ph.D.


National Research Center for Women & Families


Amy Allina

Program Director

National Women's Health Network


Karen Wayland

Legislative Director

Natural Resources Defense Council


Kim Nelson

Research Wildlife Biologist


Rick Engler


New Jersey Work Environment Council


Sean Moulton

Director of Information Policy

OMB Watch


Patrice McDermott



Siobhan Reynolds


Pain Relief Network


Larry Siems

Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

PEN American Center


Danielle Brian

Executive Director

Project On Government Oversight


David Arkush


Public Citizen's Congress Watch


Jeff Ruch

Executive Director

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility


Kirsten Moore

President and CEO

Reproductive Health Technologies Project


James A. Landrith, Jr.


The Multiracial Activist


Ron Marshall


The New Grady Coalition


Ellen Paul

Executive Director

The Ornithological Council


John W. Whitehead


The Rutherford Institute


Kevin Kuritzky

The Student Health Integrity Project


Dane vonBreichenruchardt


U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation


Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D.

Director, Scientific Integrity Program

Union of Concerned Scientists


Bruce McIntosh

Staff Ecologist

Western Nebraska Resources Council


John Judge

9/11 Research Project


John Young

Retired Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *