The UCS Science Protection Project

Safeguarding government science and scientists

The Science Protection Project exists to facilitate privileged, confidential advice from experienced private attorneys to federal scientists and their allies.  The purpose of the Project is to help bring to light actions that diminish the role of independent science in public health, public safety, and environmental policymaking. Individuals may consult with highly skilled attorneys with significant federal government experience, who will consider the circumstances, provide initial guidance, and work with UCS staff to strategize about the best course of action. Together, we help scientists and their supporters understand their rights and potential vulnerabilities and evaluate whether and how to prevent and/or reveal efforts to politicize science.

How it works

Federal employees, contractors, or anyone with knowledge of a situation whereby science may be being inappropriately subjected to political influence may seek advice by contacting attorneys through a variety of confidential means, including electronically, over the phone, in person, and via postal mail (described more fully below). While maintaining attorney-client privilege, the attorneys may consult with experts at UCS and strategize various courses of action. 

Our first priority is to protect the person who contacts the Project. At all times, you control how much information we know about your identity and situation. Our goal is to resolve the situation and keep scientists working on science in service of public health and the environment.

Although most outreach will happen online, UCS staff will also reach out to scientists at major scientific gatherings and through peer networks, making attorneys available for consultations in person.

If you want to contact UCS directly, you can do so here; please be aware, however, that this method may afford you fewer legal protections. 

What we’re looking for

Broadly, anything that relates to the role of science in policymaking. This could include:

  • Removal of or reduction in access to access to scientific data and information
  • Pressure to water down scientific reports
  • Plans to reduce or eliminate science advisory committees
  • Proposals to eliminate, reduce, or suspend data collection
  • Undisclosed or underreported conflicts of interest
  • Inappropriate meetings with regulated industries
  • Restrictions on attending scientific meetings or publishing research
  • Delays in implementation of public health and environmental protections
  • Restrictions on the type of evidence that can be considered in formulating policy
  • Attempts to avoid environmental impact statements or other important inputs
  • Violations of agency scientific integrity policies
  • Failure to consult with subject-matter experts before making science-based decisions

We’re also looking for information on any actions (or lack of action) that erode a strong culture of science at federal agencies, including:

  • Attempts to reorganize or buy out staff in a way that erodes agency scientific capacity  
  • Overcompliance with White House directives
  • Plans to reduce public participation in agency rulemaking
  • Restrictions on employee communication with the media, Congress, or other scientists outside of government
  • Targeting of marginalized groups, such as LGBT individuals or people of color

If you’re not sure if your situation fits under our purview, contact us anyway and we’ll talk you through it. But please be aware that this is not a hotline for general workplace grievances.

Why now

Political interference in science becomes more likely when administration officials come from regulated industry or are hostile to the agencies they lead. Already, agencies have canceled scientific meetings, disbanded scientific advisory committees, fired scientific advisors, delayed the implementation of countless science-based rules, and targeted critical scientific research for defunding. Other actions have created a culture of fear in many federal science agencies. Left unchecked, the problem will only get worse. 

When principles of scientific integrity are not upheld, our nation’s ability to respond to complex challenges to public health, the environment, and national security are compromised. Further, the loss of scientific integrity betrays public trust in government and undermines the democratic principles upon which this nation was founded.  

Why UCS

For more than a decade, the Union of Concerned Scientists has worked directly with scientists and their supporters to raise the political price of manipulating, suppressing, and distorting science. We rely on federal employees to speak truth to power and report political interference in their work and violations of the law. Our reach extends across dozens of federal agencies and departments, protecting experts on any issue where science touches policy.

We anonymously survey government scientists to measure the level of political interference in their work, and educate them about their rights and responsibilities. We provide sources for journalists and case studies for members of Congress who promote legislation to protect the integrity of science. We are experienced in obtaining and handling sensitive documents and bringing them to the public and the press.

Contact the Project

Before you contact the Project, please review these guidelines regarding how to keep your communications safe and secure.

The Project will open a hotline at 202-538-2937, which will be staffed every Wednesday between 1 and 5 PM. You can leave a message at any time, or you can call during these hours. 

You can also get in touch with the Project in the following ways:

  • Protonmail: protectscientists@protonmail.com
  • Signal text message: 202-538-2937
  • Paper materials, marked "Attorney-Client Privileged",  may be sent for the purpose of seeking legal advice to:

 

Lindsay C. Harrison
Jenner & Block LLP
1099 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001

If you simply wish to share documents with UCS and the attorneys completely anonymously, you can do so by using our SecureDrop server, which requires you to use the Tor Browser. Instructions on how to connect are here

Again, do not get in touch with the Project without reading these guidelines on secure communications first.

Information for lawyers

Jenner & Block LLP is providing primary support for the Science Protection Project, but is looking for other experienced attorneys across the country who understand federal employment law and information and science policy. If you are interested in volunteering with the Project, please email Lindsay C. Harrison.  

Support the Project

UCS is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. UCS’s tax ID is 04-2535767.  Gifts made from a donor advised fund should specify that they are intended for the Science Protection Project.  Gifts may also be made online at www.ucsusa.org.  We ask that you complete a Statement of Gift Intention so that your contribution may be directed to the Project.

We Need Your Support
to Make Change Happen

We can ensure that decisions about our health, safety, and environment are based on the best available science—but not without you. Your generous support helps develop science-based solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.