Science Group to Survey Thousands of Federal Scientists

New Survey Marks First Large-Scale Look Inside the Trump Administration

Published Feb 12, 2018

WASHINGTON (February 12, 2018)—Beginning today and over the next month, more than 63,000 federal scientists across 16 agencies will get the opportunity to share what’s happening inside the federal government. For the ninth time since 2005, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is conducting a survey of scientists to understand the state of federal science programs.

UCS is partnering with Iowa State University to conduct the survey, which will offer federal employees a chance to anonymously and securely talk about scientific integrity within their agency.

UCS has conducted eight surveys over the past three presidential administrations. Most of the questions will carry over from previous years, allowing UCS and Iowa State University researchers a clear comparison to understand what has and has not changed from previous administrations. Are scientists able to do their jobs? Are their communications restricted? Is undue political interference affecting their work? How is morale? Do scientists know about the policies that protect them and their work?   

This year’s survey will be UCS’s largest ever, and it will allow the public to get a larger context for the stories of political interference and abuse of science that have frequently emerged from the Trump administration.

“In the Trump era, we've already seen science ignored and dismissed, scientists targeted for reassignments and pressured to leave the government, and a hostile environment for scientific research,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director at the UCS Center for Science and Democracy. “It’s more important than ever that scientists speak out—and that they can do so without fear that their jobs will be at risk. This survey gives them a powerful tool to share their working conditions and how well they can serve the public.”

Past UCS surveys have led to concrete improvements in federal scientific integrity, including stronger media and social media policies and safeguards to ensure agency communications are scientifically accurate. The survey is a valuable tool to help hold the administration accountable.

“What we’ve seen from the Trump administration has raised alarms in the scientific community,” said Goldman. “It can be hard to see beyond the breaking news alerts on individual cases where science is threatened. This survey will help us understand the big picture—the context and the patterns behind the anecdotes we hear about.”

The survey, offered to scientists starting today, will stay open for the following month. Survey results will be analyzed and shared with the federal agencies surveyed and the public later this year.

“The work that federal scientists do doesn’t just end in a lab or a report,” said Jacob Carter, a UCS research scientist. “Federal scientists track the weather and monitor natural disasters, measure pollution levels, inspect food and monitor the spread of disease. Federal science really matters for people’s lives—and that means that scientists need the freedom to follow their research wherever it leads and speak openly about their work. This survey will help us understand if the Trump administration is getting it right.”