USDA orders scientists to say published research is ‘preliminary’

WaPo article via SF Chronicle…. No, not The Onion.

USDA orders scientists to say published research is ‘preliminary’

Ben Guarino, The Washington Post Published 9:30 am PDT, Friday, April 19, 2019

Researchers at the Agriculture Department laughed in disbelief last summer when they received a memo about a new requirement: Their finalized, peer-reviewed scientific publications must be labeled “preliminary.”

The July 2018 memo from Chavonda Jacobs-Young, the acting USDA chief scientist, told researchers their reports published in scientific journals must include a statement that reads: “The findings and conclusions in this preliminary publication have not been formally disseminated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and should not be construed to represent any agency determination or policy.” A copy of the memo was obtained by The Washington Post and the USDA confirmed its authenticity.

4 thoughts on “USDA orders scientists to say published research is ‘preliminary’”

  1. This is incredible. Does anyone have the actual memo?

    If agency research and science is now “preliminary,” doesn’t that essentially undermine the deference the Forest Service claims it is owed to its scientific conclusions?

  2. Well, at least they are being allowed to publish their work and it is not being altered/edited by the higher-ups! But in case no one has noticed, the campaigning for the next election started shortly after the current administration took over the White House.

  3. Not to be a science geek- unnecessarily- but it appears as if Chavonda Jacobs-Young is the Administrator of ARS. As such, she wouldn’t be speaking for the FS, the ERS, NIFA, nor any other USDA agencies that have a research component. So if it were a Trump administration thing, shouldn’t it be more widespread? Apparently not even a Sonny Perdue thing. Probably a memo sent out without appropriate review and consideration of sensitivities. I find the WaPO headline somewhat inaccurate since the direction was sent last August.. I think “orders” sounds like it just happened, whereas “ordered” (2018) is more accurate, but not as juicy.

    What’s even more interesting to me about this is reading about Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who has a Ph.D. in paper science (one of “our” fields!) and is a black woman head of ARS. Now I have wondered about the mysterious missing female Station Directors and maybe the FS could learn something from ARS (as far as I know, the FS has never had a black woman as station director nor staff director nor associate nor deputy chief for R&D, and has had one Hispanic female station director, Hilda Diaz-Soltero). Which tends to stand out if you look comparatively at leadership within NFS.

    Here’s a link to a positive WaPo story about her in June 2017:

    What led you into the field of agriculture science and what motivated you to come work for the federal government?

    “I have Ph.D. in a field called wood and paper science. Many people have no idea what that means. And I’m the first African American Ph.D. in the country in this area that most have never heard of, by the way. I was working as an assistant college professor when I was approached about joining the government in 2002. I saw it as an opportunity to learn about federal service and join the team of amazing federal scientists helping to meet our nation’s largest agricultural research goals”.

  4. Anon is wrong. All publication submissions have to go through a policy review and to see if results could impact Federal actions or the economy (if above a threshold- as if anybody knows what that is). Many a USDA FS fire paper has been altered or prohibited as have ARS pesticide/bee papers.


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