Layzej writes: Popular Science reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now barred from communicating with the public. [And early this morning, BuzzFeed revealed that] The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has banned scientists and other employees from sharing the results of its taxpayer-funded research with the broader public. From the report: “The memo outlining these new rules has not been made public, but the ban reportedly includes everything from summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets. Scientists are still able to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, but they are unable to talk about that research without prior consent from their agency. This is not the first time that public science has been hamstrung by a gag order. To this day, the quantity of oil spewed into the ocean during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill remains something of a mystery. Many of the scientists who worked on the spill were hired by BP and barred from speaking on it. But gag orders — while always troublesome — have usually been limited to one specific issue. Right now, the EPA and USDA have been forbidden to speak about all of their scientific research. It means that many of the kinds of stories we now cover will never see the light of day.” UPDATE 1/24/17: The USDA has disavowed the memo sent to employees at its Agricultural Research Service unit. USDA’s deputy administrator, Michael Young, clarified that the gag order specifically applies to policy-related statements in press releases and interviews, which need to be vetted with the secretary of agriculture. He told The Washington Post that peer-reviewed scientific papers from the unit should not be blocked, nor should food safety announcements. The Washington Post notes that “the memo’s shortness and terse language seems to have exacerbated the confusion: ‘Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents. This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,’ wrote ARS chief Sharon Drumm in an email to employees.”
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