In an apparent response to Trump, US senators seek to shore up independence of federal scientists

Amid concerns that the Trump administration could silence or de-fund certain types of research it finds politically inconvenient, a bill has been introduced in the US Congress to support independent and impartial science at federal agencies and encourage the public dissemination of scientific results. The measure has attracted nearly 30 cosponsors, all of them Democratic.

The legislation, led by Bill Nelson – the top Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – reaffirms the principle of open communication of scientific findings and aims to prevent the suppression of research findings. Further, the bill directs federal agencies to develop scientific integrity policies that include whistleblower protections. The measure applies to government employees and contractors, and it does not appear to extend to grantees.

‘Politics should not get in the way of sharing factual and independent scientific information,’ said one of the legislation’s cosponsors, Sen. Patty Murray. ‘It is the public’s right to have access to federally funded science and research, and this bill reinforces the critical principle that scientists supporting federal agencies or laboratories should be free from outside influences.’

Since the election, more than 5,000 scientists, including many Nobel Prize winners, have signed an open letter urging President Trump and Congress to preserve scientific integrity.