U.S. federal agencies still limit government scientists’ use of social media to talk about their research and findings with the public.
A new study released by scientific advocacy group Center for Science and Democracy (CSD) rated several federal agencies in the United States and found mixed ratings for their media policies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) topped the list of 17 science agencies reviewed on the CSD 2013 report. It had A and B grades for media and social media policy, respectively.
Last place on the list of science-related federal agencies was the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It only managed to acquire D marks for both media policies.
Other agencies got “incompletes” for both categories because CSD researchers cannot immediately access their media and social media policies.
The CSD said the Obama administration scored high marks due to scientists’ freedom of speech and ability to speak directly to the public. It is the division of the Union for Concerned Scientists that sponsored a similar report in 2008.
Federal agencies have improved since then, the CSD added. But reports revealed the problem still exists in some attempts to hush up scientists.
CSD analyst Gretchen Goldman stressed how scientists have the right to publicize their opinions because they do not give up First Amendment freedoms after they inked a deal to work for the U.S. government.
She said the public has all the right to receive information from research funded by tax from American citizens, especially when the research involves their health and safety.
A document released together with the CSD report said the perfect media policy must include an easily accessible, flexible office for public affairs, the protection of scientific freedom of speech, and the promotion of transparency.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) listened to the report and updated its media policy after reading the documents.
The CSD gave B and B+ grades to NASA for its media and social media policies, respectively.
The space agency has received commendations from watchdogs and observers for its use of social media to share cosmic events, such as the first Google+ hangout in space last month.
The only agency to get an A mark for social media policy was the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The CSD said the NIH New Media Checklist helped its employees clearly understand the policy on what information are privy and hidden from social media.
Goldman pointed out the massive Twitter following of NASA to show the potential of social media for the federal agencies.
The government should not prohibit scientists from disclosing research with social media, she added.