20 December 2017

Reflections on the #CDC7Words Issue

Posted by Chris McEntee

Central to AGU’s mission of promoting discovery in Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity is an adherence to the scientific method, a commitment to the open exchange of ideas and information, and support for the generation and dissemination of scientific knowledge – all of which are rooted in the time-proven, scientific peer-review process.

We were very alarmed to learn of reports, widely covered across the media spectrum, that scientists working within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control were told not to use the following seven words or phrases in official documentation as related to the FY 2019 federal budget: evidence-based, science-based, vulnerable, entitlement, diversity, transgender, and fetus.

The avoidance or elimination of these words, and thus potentially related topics, initiatives, or studies, would adversely affect many of the most marginalized members of our society, while doing a disservice to scientific debate.

Although the CDC has since refuted that there is a “ban” on any science words, the existence of such reports indicate that there is a potentially chilling atmosphere at the agencies that could nonetheless silence the discussion and investigation surrounding these critical phrases. It reinforces a growing concern among researchers at some of our nation’s premiere scientific agencies that they must either self-censor their work to avoid retaliation, or risk damaging their careers and professional reputations.

Suppression of the scientific process – whether overt or covert – sends a dangerous message that could ultimately cheat the American public of the best scientific evidence and findings from some our nation’s finest federal scientists. AGU joins a chorus of scientific organizations by pledging to continue our support of scientists and the dissemination of their research findings, free of interference (whatever its origins), in order to ensure a sustainable future for all.