Both houses of Congress in the United States have now passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act – legislation that protects all federal scientists who expose the censorship of federal information, either crucial to public health and safety or required by law or regulation. Scientists who call out censorship and then are demoted or fired by agency managers will have the right to fight that retaliation. And the WPEA will give all federal workers, including scientists, better tools and stronger rights as whistleblowers.
The legislation, which is expected to be signed into law by President Obama, will help Americans who depend on federal agencies to protect them from unsafe drugs, defective consumer products, hazardous workplaces, and polluted air and water. But it also strongly supports the role of independent science as the foundation for federal policymaking. It sends a strong signal that federal scientists deserve respect.
Hiding or obfuscation of federal science by senior government officials has from time to time been a problem in Canada. The fact that the US is now protecting the uncensored release of science information is likely to increase pressure on the Canadian government to do the same. Even if our laws are not amended, scientific analyses showing risks to human health and the environment is now more likely to reach the Canadian public through US government channels. Public Right to Know is something that it is increasingly difficult for democratic governments to suppress.
The Union of Concerned Scientists was a major player in lobbying for passage of the WPEA. View the UCS’ take on the legislation, and a link to the legislation, at http://blog.ucsusa.org/congress-does-something-right-for-federal-scientists/