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Oregon Scientists Claim Federal Agency Censored Them

Jan. 7, 2013 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Amelia Templeton


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  • A suckerfish. Seven federal scientists in Oregon say their team is being disbanded in part because found a population of endangered suckerfish in a part of the river other agencies considered a dead zone. credit: Creative Commons/hotash
A suckerfish. Seven federal scientists in Oregon say their team is being disbanded in part because found a population of endangered suckerfish in a part of the river other agencies considered a dead zone. | credit: Creative Commons/hotash | rollover image for more

Seven fish biologists working in Southern Oregon filed a scientific misconduct complaint Monday. They say the Bureau of Reclamation plans to disband their team because their studies were unpopular.

Four different federal agencies are all working to save threatened salmon and endangered suckerfish that live in the Klamath River and Klamath Lake.

Biologists with the Bureau of Reclamation say some of their fish studies had unusual results. In one example, they found a population of endangered suckerfish in a part of the river other agencies considered a dead zone. The biologists say their manager criticized them for “proving others wrong.”

Then, they say, their manager announced plans to reassign them and outsource future fish studies. Jeff Ruch with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility helped the scientists file a complaint.

“These scientists are losing their jobs because of the content of their science,” said Ruch, the group’s executive director. “And that’s the heart of the complaint. To the extent that there are scientific disagreements, there are ways to handle it other than saying, your office is abolished.”

The employees also allege their manager refused to publish their work on salmon in the Klamath Basin because it was considered by others to be biased. Their complaint was filed with the Interior Department. The complaint cites a memo from their manager saying their work is perceived by others as inherently biased.

In a written statement, the Bureau of Reclamation characterized the move as standard reorganization and said no staff members will lose their jobs.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Correction: Jan. 8, 2013. An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the executive director of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The correct spelling of his name is Jeff Ruch.

© 2013 OPB
Klamath Basin science U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
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