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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

GAP at the March for Science

Dana Gold, April 27, 2017

This past Earth Day, heavy rain couldn’t prevent GAP from proudly participating in the March for Science in Washington, D.C. The March’s motto, “Science Not Silence,” prompted GAPwhich for nearly 40 years has advocated on behalf of science professionals who have blown the whistle on censorship and serious threats to public health, safety and the environmentto take an active role as a partner and participant in the events this past weekend.

The event was organized in the wake of efforts by the Trump administration to prevent employees in agencies such as the EPA, the USDA, and the Department of Interior from disclosing information to the public without prior approval, eliminate information related to climate change on agency websites, appoint agency leaders that deny the reality of climate change, and propose drastic funding cuts for environmental agencies. The non-partisan March catalyzed the vocal support of thousands of scientists and science supporters for the essential role of facts and their truthful presentation in a democracy responsible for developing sound policies that protect the public interest.

GAP led one of 24 Teach-In sessions that took place before the March itself. With Stevie Wonder songs booming from the main stage, I presented a session entitled Whistleblowers: Speaking Up for Science (Video courtesy of Foothill College STEM Center) to a rain-soaked, standing-room-only crowd. I discussed the important role that science whistleblowers have played in protecting the public interest such as: promoting nuclear safety at the Hanford Nuclear site; preventing more deaths from the inappropriately approved drug Vioxx; prompting the largest food recall in history after reporting how Peanut Corporation of America had a longstanding practice of producing and distributing salmonella-contaminated peanuts; and exposing how White House officials in the George W. Bush administration were improperly censoring scientific program reports on global warming intended for the public and Congress.

I also shared GAP’s new Know Your Rights wallet cards and gave an overview about the rights of non-intelligence community federal employees to disclose information, free from reprisal, that they reasonably believe is evidence of a violation of a law, rule or regulation, and/or constitutes gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. Despite these legal protections, whistleblowers still suffer predictable reprisal, rather than expressions of gratitude, for exposing serious problems. After disabusing the audience of common misperceptions and misunderstandings about whistleblowers, I asked the crowd to join GAP in working to change the dominant paradigm that vilifies rather than values these truth heroes.

Social support is an important factor in encouraging employees to speak out about problems rather than stay silent, so we asked the crowd to share their testimonials of support and appreciation for whistleblowers on index cards. These testimonials are meaningful expressions of gratitude for those employees who have stood up for science, truth and facts in the past. They also serve as words of encouragement to future whistleblowers whose moral conviction and professional integrity compel them to speak about wrongdoing they witness in the workplace.

We would like you to join those who stood in solidarity with whistleblowers at the March for Science this past weekend to keep up the momentum of support for “Science Not Silence.” Please share your testimonials about why you support whistleblowers to add to our Wall of Support that we will develop along with your celebratory gallery of whistleblowers on our website. You can also tweet @GovAcctProj using the hashtag #TeamTruth or post a picture of yourself on Facebook holding the hashtag #TeamTruth and tell us why whistleblowers are important to you. Then help build the movement by tagging five friends and ask them to share their own reasons. Help us make the campaign go viral!

It was inspiring having the opportunity to stand in solidarity with thousands of people marching together because of a shared belief in the value of not just science, but truth and truth-tellers. Our work is more urgent and relevant than ever. Join us in supporting whistleblowers whose commitment to truth-telling helps defend us all.