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Government Scientists Should Not Be Fired For Doing Their Job
Andrew Keller is a biologist who has worked seventeen years for the Fish and Wildlife Service. For the last ten years he's worked on the Florida panther recovery program. Mr. Keller is critical of FWS' efforts to save the panther, which is as endangered as a species can be without being extinct. Mr. Kelleer's job was to protect the panther.

In May, Mr. Keller and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a Data Quality Act petition seeking correction of studies FWS uses to decide whether to allow proposed development in Southwest Florida. The DQA petition claims that these studies, which are favorable to development, inflate panther population and inaccurately minimize habitat needs.

In July, FWS sent Mr. Keller and PEER its initial response to their DQA petition. FWS acknowledges that some of the challenged studies may be incorrect based on current knowledge, but claims that FWS did not know this at the time of the studies. FWS stated that it may revise the studies in 2006. In the meantime, they're still being used.

One week after its initial response to Mr. Keller's DQA Petition, FWS fired him. Mr. Keller and PEER are appealing FWS' initial DQA response. Winston hopes that Mr. Keller is challenging FWS' firing him.

Winston is new to this issue and does not know all the facts. Winston does know, however, that government scientists should not be fired for doing their job, even when that job requires filing a DQA petition with the scientist's own agency. An agency should be grateful and reward employees who point out that it is relying on bad science and bad data. The Data Quality Act is neutral. Anyone should be able to use it, without penalty, to ensure that agency information meets the Act's high quality standards.

Winston will follow and report on this matter as it develops.

  • Click for PEER's Web site discussion of this matter and for the Panther DQA petition and FWS' response.

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