One of the benefits of being an Old Person who has lived through many administrations, is the ability to see (or at least introduce the idea of) some outrage-provoking action decried by some media outlets being a tempest in a teapot, or business as usual . Many thanks to Susan Jane Brown for finding this letter from USDA and including it in her comment here. The letter says that agencies with existing policies don’t have to follow this policy. So the next logical question is “what agencies have their own policies?”
Let’s look at the WaPo story:
“Not every study published by a USDA scientist is required to have this disclaimer. Some research agencies at USDA, including the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Forest Service have “agency-specific policies” that determine when a disclaimer is appropriate, said William Trenkle, the USDA scientific integrity officer.”
Now folks may wonder, as I did, having worked for the Research, Education and Economics mission area at USDA, what scientific agencies are left? Just NIFA, formerly CSREES, which doesn’t hire scientists but grants funding to other scientists.. so is that even relevant, since those studies would not be “published with a USDA scientist?”. All very confusing.
But Trenkle also says:
Others, such as the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, have been encouraged to follow the new guidelines.
By my count, that leaves APHIS hanging out by itself to be a center of this controversy. Poor APHIS. Most of us think of it as mostly a regulatory agency anyway, so this whole drama could be actually good press for the APHIS research program. After some hunting around, I found many interesting things they do at this site. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t look like the kind of research with big partisan payoffs one way or another that is likely to be changed by politicals. But it is good to know that there are scientists working away on extremely important but not particularly trendy research.