Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • After last month’s revelation that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) would no longer publicly list its animal welfare inspection reports and enforcement actions, the situation seems to have changed, slightly. According to Science, the USDA has posted four reports—from inspections conducted on January 10, 12, and 17 of this year—during the first quarter of 2017. The USDA has not posted any such reports since Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, but the agency told Science that it has inspected “about 300” animal research facilities between the start of 2017 until March 30.
  • Stephen Metcalfe, chair of the U.K.’s House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, wrote last week in The Guardian that responsible science journalism is more important now than ever. “If the press is to maintain the public’s trust, journalists must demonstrate their commitment to clear and unbiased reporting of scientific facts,” he wrote, “and be given the necessary support by policymakers to do so.” Metcalfe cited reporting on the absence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, genetically modified foods, and climate change as examples where accurate science reporting has sometimes yielded to the economic pressures of the news business. Referring to a new report from his committee, he decried the ease with which UK policymakers can cherry pick scientific information gleaned from the press. “My committee found that the rules around policymaking currently make it far too easy for ministers to use science selectively to either back a political aim or, worse still, to mask financial reasons for not taking sufficient action,” Metcalfe wrote. “We need a firm commitment by all those in the political sphere to pursue evidence-based policy making, rather than policy-based evidence.”

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