EPA Scientists Banned from Speaking at Climate Conference

 

The EPA administration is fighting back against the climate change ideologues. The agency has cancelled the speaking appearances of three scientists who were scheduled to speak at a non-EPA conference on subjects related to climate change.

These scientists contributed to a 400-plus-page report to be issued today on the status of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and its challenges, and there are fears that scientists are being silenced from speaking on this controversial subject. It’s widely known that the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, questions whether human activity is a major contributor to climate change.

John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, chairs the science advisory committee of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (which is sponsoring the conference), and stated the following:

It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at E.P.A. They don’t believe in climate change, so I think what they’re trying to do is stifle discussions of the impacts of climate change.

No further explanation for this decision by the EPA has been offered.

This story raises a few questions for me:

  1. Who decides whether a federal government employee may attend any particular conference (assuming funds are available)?
  2. Does a federal agency have the right to decide whether an employee can present a paper at a conference or appear on a panel?
  3. Can a federal employee be fired if he or she decides to appear anyway?
  4. Do you see this action as censorship, and does it matter?
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  1. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn:The EPA administration is fighting back against the climate change ideologues! The Agency has cancelled the speaking appearances of three scientists who were scheduled to speak at a non-EPA conference on subjects related to climate change.

    These scientists contributed to a 400+page report to be issued today on the status of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program and its challenges, and there are fears that scientists are being silenced from speaking on this controversial subject. It’s widely known that the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, questions whether human activity is a major contributor to climate change.

    John King, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, chairs the science advisory committee of the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (which is sponsoring the conference), and stated the following:

    It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at E.P.A. They don’t believe in climate change, so I think what they’re trying to do is stifle discussions of the impacts of climate change.

    No further explanation for this decision by the EPA has been offered.

    This story raises a few questions for me:

    1. Who decides whether a federal government employee may attend any particular conference (assuming funds are available)?
    2. Does a federal agency have the right to decide whether an employee can present a paper at a conference or appear on a panel?
    3. Can a federal employee be fired if he or she decides to appear anyway?
    4. Do you see this action as censorship, and does it matter?

    I think EPA policy, established by agency leadership. can determine when and where EPA personnel may attend and participate as representatives of the agency.

    I don’t know if the agency has any recourse regarding private participation on non-government time, but there may be some cases where conflicts of expressed views with agency work may come into play.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I think EPA policy, established by agency leadership. can determine when and where EPA personnel may attend and participate as representatives of the agency.

    I don’t know if the agency has any recourse regarding private participation on non-government time, but there may be some cases where conflicts of expressed views with agency work may come into play.

    Bob, do you think they’re owed an explanation? I’m torn on this. Of course, if they use the reason that it’s engaging the agency in political issues, they’ll get hammered for that! But at least it would be true.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    But I see your other point, and wonder–what if they take vacation days and attend on their own time?

    • #3
  4. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan Quinn:

    • Who decides whether a federal government employee may attend any particular conference (assuming funds are available)?

    That’s an easy one. The President has the final say. In practice, it’d be the cabinet-level head who oversees the employee’s agency.

    • Does a federal agency have the right to decide whether an employee can present a paper at a conference or appear on a panel?

    Yes. Absolutely. If a scientist wants independence they shouldn’t work for a government agency. Government is not independent. Government is not unbiased. Government is not objective. It doesn’t matter how hard you wish government was these things, it just isn’t.

    • Can a federal employee be fired if he or she decides to appear anyway?

    Yes.

    • Do you see this action as censorship, and does it matter?

    No, it’s not censorship.  If the person resigns their position with the government they are legally free to say and publish whatever they want and to associate with whatever organization they want.  The First Amendment does not guarantee a constitutional right to a government job.  The person’s constitutional right of free speech is not infringed.

    Yes, it does matter. Allowing unelected government officials to operate beyond the oversight of the elected administration would be supremely anti-democratic.

    That all being said, here’s one question you didn’t ask:

    • Should the government be able to suppress the release of research data compiled by government scientists, when the data is not vital for national security?

    My answer to that question would probably be “no”.  If the government uses taxpayer dollars to compile research data, that data belongs to the American people are should be made public.

    The problem with government scientists giving talks is that they are prone to spin their own preferred conclusions, and not that they might reveal truths that the sitting President doesn’t like.  If all the raw data was released into the public domain AS A DEFAULT, then the President’s preferred spin becomes much less of a factor.  Let the people debate the meaning of the data.

    If the government’s default position is to release all research data into the public domain, you can’t really accuse the government of suppressing science.  You can only accuse the government of suppressing non-approved opinion.

    • #4
  5. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I think EPA policy, established by agency leadership. can determine when and where EPA personnel may attend and participate as representatives of the agency.

    I don’t know if the agency has any recourse regarding private participation on non-government time, but there may be some cases where conflicts of expressed views with agency work may come into play.

    Bob, do you think they’re owed an explanation? I’m torn on this. Of course, if they use the reason that it’s engaging the agency in political issues, they’ll get hammered for that! But at least it would be true.

    Can’t say without more information. Do the EPA scientists not know why they were not allowed to speak? Was their scheduled speaking represented as on behalf of EPA? Was the content of what they were going to say in conflict with EPA policy or positions? Details.

    EDIT: I don’t think the meeting sponsor is entitled to any explanation other than directly from the cancelled speakers.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    The problem with government scientists giving talks is that they are prone to spin their own preferred conclusions, and not that they might reveal truths that the sitting President doesn’t like. If all the raw data was released into the public domain AS A DEFAULT, then the President’s preferred spin becomes much less of a factor. Let the people debate the meaning of the data.

    Thanks so much, Mis! Very helpful. Yes, I’m convinced that most scientists working in the area of climate change have agendas, not scientific conclusions. I doubt that the raw data will be become public, since the validity of their conclusions might actually be called out. Now wouldn’t that be a shame.

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    Yes. Absolutely. If a scientist wants independence they shouldn’t work for a government agency. Government is not independent. Government is not unbiased. Government is not objective. It doesn’t matter how hard you wish government was these things, it just isn’t.

    Please forgive me for asking, but is this your opinion, or is this fact–the part where you explain that the scientist can’t maintain independence in government. Do you think that is commonly understood, by scientists and by the public? I realize that you’re explaining the way government operates, but do you think government would agree with you? (I hope this makes sense . . .)

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Can’t say without more information. Do the EPA scientists not know why they were not allowed to speak? Was their scheduled speaking represented as on behalf of EPA? Was the content of what they were going to say in conflict with EPA policy or positions? Details.

    EDIT: I don’t think the meeting sponsor is entitled to any explanation other than directly from the cancelled speakers.

    Sorry, Bob. I forgot to insert the link (which is now in the OP). They were already scheduled and listed on the program when the EPA forbade their presenting. Since they contributed to the report coming out, it would be clear they were representing the EPA. The report is due out today, so I haven’t seen the results. Fair questions that you ask.

    • #7
  8. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Can’t say without more information. Do the EPA scientists not know why they were not allowed to speak? Was their scheduled speaking represented as on behalf of EPA? Was the content of what they were going to say in conflict with EPA policy or positions? Details.

    EDIT: I don’t think the meeting sponsor is entitled to any explanation other than directly from the cancelled speakers.

    Sorry, Bob. I forgot to insert the link (which is now in the OP). They were already scheduled and listed on the program when the EPA forbade their presenting. Since they contributed to the report coming out, it would be clear they were representing the EPA. The report is due out today, so I haven’t seen the results. Fair questions that you ask.

    When I worked for Treasury, and before that with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, and had speaking engagements before financial institutions and other industry groups, there was policy guidance that would influence what I would say and how I would say it. That’s not censorship.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Can’t say without more information. Do the EPA scientists not know why they were not allowed to speak? Was their scheduled speaking represented as on behalf of EPA? Was the content of what they were going to say in conflict with EPA policy or positions? Details.

    EDIT: I don’t think the meeting sponsor is entitled to any explanation other than directly from the cancelled speakers.

    Sorry, Bob. I forgot to insert the link (which is now in the OP). They were already scheduled and listed on the program when the EPA forbade their presenting. Since they contributed to the report coming out, it would be clear they were representing the EPA. The report is due out today, so I haven’t seen the results. Fair questions that you ask.

    When I worked for Treasury, and before that with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, and had speaking engagements before financial institutions and other industry groups, there was policy guidance that would influence what I would say and how I would say it. That’s not censorship.

    No it’s not censorship, but it shows limitations imposed on employees by the government. Very interesting. Thanks!

    • #9
  10. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Susan Quinn:This story raises a few questions for me:

    1. Who decides whether a federal government employee may attend any particular conference (assuming funds are available)?
    2. Does a federal agency have the right to decide whether an employee can present a paper at a conference or appear on a panel?
    3. Can a federal employee be fired if he or she decides to appear anyway?
    4. Do you see this action as censorship, and does it matter?
    1. Normally, this would be the supervisor who clears it through the travel office. The NYT lists it as Wayne Munns as the supervisor and after doing a web search, probably correct. He was the one also who cancelled. Since this was EPA-funded research, it would normally have gone through.
    2. Yes. They are on the clock.
    3. Normally, other disciplinary action would be taken. Firing an employee is something no supervisor wants to do. I doubt this is the case with this employee, but I’ve seen cases where a supervisor will talk extremely favorably of an employee they want to get rid of, so that a promotion and transfer out of their supervision is involved. If the employee is more than (I forget the exact number) miles from the station where they are assigned, they have to file for travel permission and are also reimbursed.
    4. It’s a matter of the talk is on the basis of past funding and the EPA is trying to end the funding (according to the article). Censorship or change in priorities? Take your pick.

    I worked in EPA labs and the answers given are how it was about 10 years ago. May have changed, but I doubt it.

    • #10
  11. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    • Who decides whether a federal government employee may attend any particular conference (assuming funds are available)?

    That’s an easy one. The President has the final say. In practice, it’d be the cabinet-level head who oversees the employee’s agency.

    • Does a federal agency have the right to decide whether an employee can present a paper at a conference or appear on a panel?

    Yes. Absolutely. If a scientist wants independence they shouldn’t work for a government agency. Government is not independent. Government is not unbiased. Government is not objective. It doesn’t matter how hard you wish government was these things, it just isn’t.

    • Can a federal employee be fired if he or she decides to appear anyway?

    Yes.

    • Do you see this action as censorship, and does it matter?

    No, it’s not censorship. If the person resigns their position with the government they are legally free to say and publish whatever they want and to associate with whatever organization they want. The First Amendment does not guarantee a constitutional right to a government job. The person’s constitutional right of free speech is not infringed.

    Yes, it does matter. Allowing unelected government officials to operate beyond the oversight of the elected administration would be supremely anti-democratic.

    That all being said, here’s one question you didn’t ask:

    • Should the government be able to suppress the release of research data compiled by government scientists, when the data is not vital for national security?

    My answer to that question would probably be “no”. If the government uses taxpayer dollars to compile research data, that data belongs to the American people are should be made public.

    The problem with government scientists giving talks is that they are prone to spin their own preferred conclusions, and not that they might reveal truths that the sitting President doesn’t like. If all the raw data was released into the public domain AS A DEFAULT, then the President’s preferred spin becomes much less of a factor. Let the people debate the meaning of the data.

    If the government’s default position is to release all research data into the public domain, you can’t really accuse the government of suppressing science. You can only accuse the government of suppressing non-approved opinion.

    Susan,

    Mistio nails it. We (NASA) take “Ethics training” annually and all of this behavior is covered. Ultimately you are free to quit and voice your own option, but as a civil servant your are bound by the rules of employment, so unless you are under whistleblower rules calling out illegal activities, you are grass as determined by the head of your agency. Also for the release of data… I have spend 15 years of my career support a mission that was to collect and disseminate high accuracy, well calibrated climatological data.

    Given the perceived urgency of the data, none of the scientists that were primary in the development of the instruments to measure the “17 critical data sets” were allow to have the normal and typical 6 month to one year exclusionary rights to the data. It was all placed on the internet just for the asking of an account, (and there was no denials of access that I ever heard of…) so that all of the teams doing the modeling could get cracking.

    To say many are not happy that the data collected for this express purpose, continuously since Dec 1999, and does not validate their models has been source and much crow for the last few years as the public availability of this data by those who take the time to review it have been making their heresy known by alternate avenues. The satellite data is the source of Deniers Resistance.  

    Talk about unintended face palm.

    • #11
  12. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
     

    Misthiocracy (View Comment):
    Yes. Absolutely. If a scientist wants independence they shouldn’t work for a government agency. Government is not independent. Government is not unbiased. Government is not objective. It doesn’t matter how hard you wish government was these things, it just isn’t.

    Please forgive me for asking, but is this your opinion, or is this fact–the part where you explain that the scientist can’t maintain independence in government. Do you think that is commonly understood, by scientists and by the public? I realize that you’re explaining the way government operates, but do you think government would agree with you? (I hope this makes sense . . .)

    Opinion.

    • #12
  13. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Susan Quinn: “It’s definitely a blatant example of the scientific censorship we all suspected was going to start being enforced at E.P.A.”

    Bingo.

    • #13
  14. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Can’t say without more information. Do the EPA scientists not know why they were not allowed to speak? Was their scheduled speaking represented as on behalf of EPA? Was the content of what they were going to say in conflict with EPA policy or positions? Details.

    EDIT: I don’t think the meeting sponsor is entitled to any explanation other than directly from the cancelled speakers.

    Sorry, Bob. I forgot to insert the link (which is now in the OP). They were already scheduled and listed on the program when the EPA forbade their presenting. Since they contributed to the report coming out, it would be clear they were representing the EPA. The report is due out today, so I haven’t seen the results. Fair questions that you ask.

    When I worked for Treasury, and before that with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, and had speaking engagements before financial institutions and other industry groups, there was policy guidance that would influence what I would say and how I would say it. That’s not censorship.

    No it’s not censorship, but it shows limitations imposed on employees by the government. Very interesting. Thanks!

    I’m not sure if I can interpret what you say here in the way you intend. You do understand that federal civil service employees have bosses who direct their work activities just as in any other hierarchical organization, public or private. Sometimes those civil servants get the notion they can do whatever they see fit since it is very difficult to fire them. What would be very interesting here is to know how these  EPA scientists/employees behaved after their speeches were cancelled.

    • #14
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Trink (View Comment):
    Bingo.

    Of course that’s what he’s choosing to call it. But then he’s a Professor so maybe he doesn’t understand the circumstances of a government employee. Right.

    • #15
  16. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Trink (View Comment):
    Bingo.

    Of course that’s what he’s choosing to call it. But then he’s a Professor so maybe he doesn’t understand the circumstances of a government employee. Right.

    I suspect there’s much more that he, being a university professor, fails to understand about the real world out there, actually.

    • #16
  17. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I’m not sure if I can interpret what you say here in the way you intend. You do understand that federal civil service employees have bosses who direct their work activities just as in any other hierarchical organization, public or private. Sometimes those civil servants get the notion they can do whatever they see fit since it is very difficult to fire them. What would be very interesting here is to know how these EPA scientists/employees behaved after their speeches were cancelled.

    Oh, I get what you’re saying, Bob, and agree that, given all the great information shared in this OP, their bosses were entitled to stop them. I like your question; more than that, I wonder if their bosses knew that they were participating in this study. I suspect their old bosses knew, but did their more recent supervisors know? I don’t know how the funds are allocated.

    • #17
  18. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Oh, I get what you’re saying, Bob, and agree that, given all the great information shared in this OP, their bosses were entitled to stop them. I like your question; more than that, I wonder if their bosses knew that they were participating in this study. I suspect their old bosses knew, but did their more recent supervisors know? I don’t know how the funds are allocated.

    There is an important issue embedded here. We know that the President has gotten most, if not all, department and agency heads appointed, but I’ve seen little regarding how much administration political depth has been achieved in those management layers just below. If this is as thin as I suspect, it means that possibly much Obama policy is still in play throughout the government and this EPA case is just one where the visibility got attention at the upper levels.

    • #18
  19. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Trink (View Comment):
    Bingo.

    Of course that’s what he’s choosing to call it. But then he’s a Professor so maybe he doesn’t understand the circumstances of a government employee. Right.

    I suspect there’s much more that he, being a university professor, fails to understand about the real world out there, actually.

    His funding is on the line and the new administration is intending to cut it off. The NYT article said the Rhode Island congressional delegation is going to be at the opening of the conference. This isn’t hard to figure out.  For the professor, all the congressional delegation is Democrats. He’d be in a better position to save his funding if there were a Republican there. That’s how that game is played.

    No doubt he got funding in the past on the basis of climate change. But my guess is, he’s interested in estuarine research. He tried sexing up his research by appealing to climate change. Now it’s going to bite him.

    • #19
  20. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I’m not sure if I can interpret what you say here in the way you intend. You do understand that federal civil service employees have bosses who direct their work activities just as in any other hierarchical organization, public or private. Sometimes those civil servants get the notion they can do whatever they see fit since it is very difficult to fire them. What would be very interesting here is to know how these EPA scientists/employees behaved after their speeches were cancelled.

    Oh, I get what you’re saying, Bob, and agree that, given all the great information shared in this OP, their bosses were entitled to stop them. I like your question; more than that, I wonder if their bosses knew that they were participating in this study. I suspect their old bosses knew, but did their more recent supervisors know? I don’t know how the funds are allocated.

    I can guarantee you that the supervisor knew. He would have had to approve it. It would have gone up the chain of command in the research arm, but that would have been under the Obama administration.

    All EPA publications have to be cleared by an in-house clearing committee in order to have it published, presented at a conference or presented externally. When I was there, for a conference paper they consisted of three people. While you sort of knew who was reviewing it, you didn’t know with accuracy. If it was a major policy paper, it would be ten or fifteen people both inside EPA and outside.

    In EPA, you are asked to review lots and lots of papers both internal and also for journals. To me, it was one of the more interesting parts of the work.

     

    • #20
  21. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I’m not sure if I can interpret what you say here in the way you intend. You do understand that federal civil service employees have bosses who direct their work activities just as in any other hierarchical organization, public or private. Sometimes those civil servants get the notion they can do whatever they see fit since it is very difficult to fire them. What would be very interesting here is to know how these EPA scientists/employees behaved after their speeches were cancelled.

    Oh, I get what you’re saying, Bob, and agree that, given all the great information shared in this OP, their bosses were entitled to stop them. I like your question; more than that, I wonder if their bosses knew that they were participating in this study. I suspect their old bosses knew, but did their more recent supervisors know? I don’t know how the funds are allocated.

    I can guarantee you that the supervisor knew. He would have had to approve it. It would have gone up the chain of command in the research arm, but that would have been under the Obama administration.

    All EPA publications have to be cleared by an in-house clearing committee in order to have it published, presented at a conference or presented externally. When I was there, for a conference paper they consisted of three people. While you sort of knew who was reviewing it, you didn’t know with accuracy. If it was a major policy paper, it would be ten or fifteen people both inside EPA and outside.

    In EPA, you are asked to review lots and lots of papers both internal and also for journals. To me, it was one of the more interesting parts of the work.

    Very helpful, HO! So they were probably cleared to participate in writing the paper, and maybe even approved to present, by Obama people, but got shut down by this administration? I am learning so much here! Let me know if I don’t have that right.

    • #21
  22. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Trink (View Comment):
    Bingo.

    Of course that’s what he’s choosing to call it. But then he’s a Professor so maybe he doesn’t understand the circumstances of a government employee. Right.

    Cough*horsehocky*cough…. I spent the last 30 years working with both the out of house academic scientists and the in-house scientists. The “innies” know exactly which side of the bun their butter is spread on, and unless they have a patron saint very high in the executive branch they wish to rely on should they wish to cross an agency administrator, they watch their words that cannot be backed by the data. I think the in house guys will get the out of house guys to do the more extrapolative discussions to avoid the backlash, which does not always play out.

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GLDIII (View Comment):
    I think the in house guys will get the out of house guys to do the more extrapolative discussions to avoid the backlash, which does not always play out.

    Does it just depend on how “risk averse” they are, if they ask the out of house guys to speak on it?

    • #23
  24. Frank Monaldo Member
    Frank Monaldo
    @FrankMonaldo

    All,

    I believe a gov’t employee CAN go to a conference even if that employee is not approved if:

    [1] It is on his own dime and time.

    [2] The person only represents himself (no listing of a gov’t agency in the program etc.) and does not imply any endorsement by the agency.

    [3] If any information is released it must be already be determined to be public domain.

    Frank

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Frank Monaldo (View Comment):
    [2] The person only represents himself (no listing of a gov’t agency in the program etc.) and does not imply any endorsement by the agency.

    Thanks, Frank. That wasn’t clear. Both aspects that you mention clarify the context even more.

    • #25
  26. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Frank Monaldo (View Comment):
    All,

    I believe a gov’t employee CAN go to a conference even if that employee is not approved if:

    [1] It is on his own dime and time.

    [2] The person only represents himself (no listing of a gov’t agency in the program etc.) and does not imply any endorsement by the agency.

    [3] If any information is released it must be already be determined to be public domain.

    Frank

    All information in EPA would be public domain. Published or unpublished. Technically, journals can not copyright anything that was written by EPA employees. There were special waiver forms for publishing in journals.

    • #26
  27. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I’m not sure if I can interpret what you say here in the way you intend. You do understand that federal civil service employees have bosses who direct their work activities just as in any other hierarchical organization, public or private. Sometimes those civil servants get the notion they can do whatever they see fit since it is very difficult to fire them. What would be very interesting here is to know how these EPA scientists/employees behaved after their speeches were cancelled.

    Oh, I get what you’re saying, Bob, and agree that, given all the great information shared in this OP, their bosses were entitled to stop them. I like your question; more than that, I wonder if their bosses knew that they were participating in this study. I suspect their old bosses knew, but did their more recent supervisors know? I don’t know how the funds are allocated.

    I can guarantee you that the supervisor knew. He would have had to approve it. It would have gone up the chain of command in the research arm, but that would have been under the Obama administration.

    All EPA publications have to be cleared by an in-house clearing committee in order to have it published, presented at a conference or presented externally. When I was there, for a conference paper they consisted of three people. While you sort of knew who was reviewing it, you didn’t know with accuracy. If it was a major policy paper, it would be ten or fifteen people both inside EPA and outside.

    In EPA, you are asked to review lots and lots of papers both internal and also for journals. To me, it was one of the more interesting parts of the work.

    Very helpful, HO! So they were probably cleared to participate in writing the paper, and maybe even approved to present, by Obama people, but got shut down by this administration? I am learning so much here! Let me know if I don’t have that right.

    The paper (400+ page one) was funded by EPA. That would have been done.

    The smaller research papers the three were going to present almost certainly had gone through review among EPA research staff. My guess is when they put in for travel request is when they were told ‘no’, but I don’t know that with certainty. It sounds as though the rug was pulled out at the last moment – otherwise, the howling would have been going on for some time.

    I don’t know if Obama people would have authorized going to the conference – it would depend on lead time of the conference. My guess is, they didn’t since Trump has been in office for 10 months. But I don’t know. The EPA group was operating on standard procedures assuming they didn’t have a problem. They were wrong.

    • #27
  28. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen
    @BrianClendinen

    Can I just say I miss this about Ricochet. This is the type of comment section I love about this site. Subject matter experts who actually have worked in the field and for the goverment chiming in on the details. Detail subject matter expert discussion used to happen more often.  This is were the value added comes from.  I wish we had more discussions related to the nitty gritty details of how things actually work. I like philosophical high level debates but you can only go so far with out rehashing the same thing. How things actually work in practice help define and shape upper level philosophical and public policy so much more than only high level thinking. More details and less strategic high level punditry.

    • #28
  29. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):
    Can I just say I miss this about Ricochet. This is the type of comment section I love about this site. Subject matter experts who actually have worked in the field and for the goverment chiming in on the details. Detail subject matter expert discussion used to happen more often. This is were the value added comes from. I wish we had more discussions related to the nitty gritty details of how things actually work. I like philosophical high level debates but you can only go so far with out rehashing the same thing. How things actually work in practice help define and shape upper level philosophical and public policy so much more than only high level thinking. More details and less strategic high level punditry.

    I love it too, Brian!!!

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  30. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    I think you need to ask slightly different questions Susan.

    One obvious question is whether the federal government has to pay for something, and there I think the EPA is well within its rights to decline to financially sponsor any activity that doesn’t conform to its policy direction, which is set from the top down.  I rather doubt there was much in the way of climate change skepticism activity being sponsored by the Obama EPA.

    The second question that comes to mind for me is whether EPA personnel can participate at a conference or on a panel on their own dime and in their individual capacities.  There I think the answer should pretty clearly be “yes” so long as they make clear they’re doing so, and that the views they express may not be the views of the agency.  You hear government employees make that disclaimer pretty regularly at public policy forums of various kinds, and it seems right to me.  I’d hate to see people have to give up their right to participate as informed citizens in public policy discussions just because they work for the government.  On the other hand, those they’re speaking to should know if what they’re saying is official policy or just private opinion.

     

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