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Emails by DOI Officials Show Concern Over Climate-Related Language

A recently released email thread among officials at the Department of the Interior (DOI), discussing a May of 2017 United States Geological Survey study, showed increased awareness around language used in scientific studies, the Washington Post reports. The study sparked conversation among top-level officials and Facebook operatives on how the researchers used descriptive language to discuss their findings.

The email chain was released after DOI climate scientist Joe Clement requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act. The study, an analysis of 50 years of glacier changes in Montana due to climate change, states that climate change "dramatically reduced" the size of 39 glaciers in Montana.

DOI officials found the descriptive language to be "inflammatory." Doug Domenech, an assistant secretary at the DOI, emailed three other DOI officials to alert them of the study's May 10th press release. "This is a perfect example of them going outside their wheelhouse," he wrote in his email.

Scott Cameron, a principal deputy assistant secretary, responded to Domenech's email with an emphasis on future monitoring of language in scientific studies. "We need to watch for inflammatory adverbs and adjectives in their press releases," Cameron wrote.

According to the Post, this thread is "just one instance of Interior's political appointees keeping a watchful eye on the work of climate scientists," while managing about 20 percent of U.S. land. But many in both political and scientific fields further push for the separation between science and politics.

A recent Pacific Standard story discussed the theme of scientific integrity that scientific organizations and departments such as the USGS must uphold under the Trump administration. On Tuesday, congresspeople at the confirmation hearing for James Reilly, President Donald Trump's nominee for USGS director, reiterated a theme of safeguarding science, preventing corruption, and separating scientific research from political agendas.