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Nearly 10% of USDA scientists believe their work has been tampered with

A survey of Dept of Agriculture (USDA) scientists by the agency’s inspector general suggests some very fishy things are going on in government science:

[Darryl Fears, Washington Post]   According to the survey’s findings, nearly 10 percent said their research has been tampered with or altered by superiors “for reasons other than technical merit,” possibly because of political considerations.

Looks like  Monopsony Trouble: When almost all the research in some fields is done by government funding (one buyer), there is no competition. In answer to that, instead of finding ways to encourage competition, the government set up an agency instead — the SIP.

That didn’t work either.

In the survey, 85 percent of the 1,300 scientists who responded said the Scientific Integrity Policy established to protect their work didn’t benefit them, or offered no opinion. Nearly 20 percent said they didn’t know the policy existed.

Nearly 40 percent didn’t bother to take the survey, according to findings released April 13. Of those who did, more than half said they didn’t know how to file a complaint and some said they didn’t do so because they feared retaliation.

“You do not need to have many cases to create a strong chilling effect, and the current science climate inside USDA is quite nippy,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which represented Lundgren.

The real story is no free speech, because when the biggest employer in town wants a certain kind of answer, there are ways to find it:

The USDA has said it doesn’t retaliate against any employee, and disputed Lundgren’s claim that he was targeted to suppress his science. Lundgren had been with the agency 11 years, ran his own lab with a staff and wrote a well-regarded book on predator insects, but his career began to fall apart when he published research that cautioned against the use of pesticides approved by the agency.

The story goes on to describe Lundgren’s 2014 whistleblower experience of suddenly having odd rules selectively enforced against him, but not against other researchers. Et Voila…

And this is only agriculture. You might think it would be tame.

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