USDA Orders Scientists To Say Published Research Is ‘Preliminary’

In Economy, Environment, Misleading Information On

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.

The disclaimer appears to conflict with the integrity policy that governs research at the USDA, said Susan Offutt, who was the administrator of the Economic Research Service, a USDA statistical agency, under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The claim that reports are not “formally disseminated” runs counter to the USDA policy that “permits and, indeed, encourages researchers to publish in scientific journals,” Offutt said.

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