The US Department of Agriculture has reportedly banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing summaries of scientific papers. Nearly immediately after the email went out, it appears that acting Deputy Secretary Michael L. Young sent out a memo that essentially offered the same guidance and rules as the Obama administration, with two changes: One, the Office of the Secretary will apparently be handling all PR duties from now on, and two, office closures, oddly enough, are forbidden.
However, research into climate change related themes may be increasingly sensitive under the new Trump administration.
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Other US press reports said government agencies, including the National Park Service, were also told to stop using Twitter accounts or issuing press statements on social media.
It's not clear how long these gag orders will remain in place, or whether they are simply created to freeze activity until President Trump's hand-picked staff can issue new regulations for those agencies for posting on social media and interacting with the public. Multiple reports indicate the administration has issued a gag order for both the USDA and the EPA. Please also transmit to your employees as soon as feasible.
"Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents", the email from Sharon Drumm reads, in part.
Department officials scrambled to clarify the memo Tuesday afternoon, after intense public scrutiny and media requests, stating that the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) had not "blacked out public information" and adding that scientific articles published through professional peer-reviewed journals have not been banned. Mashable reports that the initial order stood in direct conflict with the USDA's Scientific Integrity Policy, "encouraging, but not requiring, USDA scientists to communicate with the media about their scientific findings".