A new directive from the Trump administration instructs federal scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey to get approval from its parent agency before agreeing to most interview requests from reporters, according to employees and emails from officials with the Department of the Interior and USGS.
USGS employees who spoke with The Times on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to do so say the new protocol represents a dramatic change in decades of past media practices at the scientific agency and will interfere with scientists’ ability to quickly respond to reporters’ questions. They expected that taxpayers would see less of the USGS’ scientific expertise as reporters seek scientific comment elsewhere.
The new protocol also permits the Department of the Interior’s communications office to reject interview requests on scientific matters.
A deputy press secretary for the Department of the Interior, Faith Vander Voort, wrote in an email that “the characterization that there is any new policy or that it for some reason targets scientists is completely false.” She said the Department of the Interior’s communications office “simply asked” the USGS public affairs office to follow media guidelines published in 2012 during the Obama administration. Vander Voort did not answer a question as to what prompted the change in media protocol.
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