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Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > Free the Tweets: Group Asks FDA to Allow its Scientists to Use Social Media

Free the Tweets: Group Asks FDA to Allow its Scientists to Use Social Media

Posted 19 March 2015 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC

Free the Tweets: Group Asks FDA to Allow its Scientists to Use Social Media

The US Food and Drug Administration currently lacks any policy permitting its employees to discuss scientific issues on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, a new report by the scientific advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has found.

The findings, outlined in the report "Grading Government Transparency: Scientists' Freedom to Speak (and Tweet) at Federal Agencies," are meant to spur discussion about whether FDA's employees are free to speak out on issues in an unofficial capacity.

"Scientists have a right to engage on social media," Gretchen Goldman of UCS wrote in a blog posting accompanying the report. "When they do, it has great benefits for science. For federal agencies, having social-media-savvy scientists is mutually beneficial. Agencies benefit by having knowledgeable ambassadors for their agency speaking to diverse audiences through social media, and scientists are able to speak freely about their work."

For FDA, which deals with tremendously complex policies deeply rooted in science, politics and law, allowing the agency's employees to speak to some of those complexities might help to educate the public about the work FDA does.

FDA Lacks Official Policy

Of the 17 federal agencies reviewed by UCS, FDA was the only one to not have a formal social media policy in place, UCS said. That policy is under development by FDA, and was supposed to have been released by May 2014. FDA's website does not state when the policy might be released.

The lack of social media policy for its employees does not mean FDA isn't active on social media. UCS's report notes that FDA maintains more than a dozen Twitter accounts, and is also active on other social media channels like Facebook and Flickr.

But these accounts reflect FDA's official view and tone, UCS notes. The views of individual scientists and FDA employees may differ from FDA's official position, or they might be able to offer deeper insight into a decision than is explained in official FDA correspondence.

"FDA does great science and has great scientists—I’d love to hear more from them on social media," Goldman said.


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