NASA unveils public affairs code of ethics

Following a two-month review initiated by charges that Bush political appointees to NASA had filtered news and data, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has released a policy paper detailing the a code of ethics for space agency public affairs staff.

Following a two-month review initiated by charges that Bush political appointees to NASA had filtered news and data, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has released a policy paper detailing the a code of ethics for space agency public affairs staff.

The eight-page policy directive, meant to govern how news releases, media advisories, features, and postings are promulgated, advocates a "culture of openness with the media and public that values free exchange of ideas..."

Included within the directives is a NASA code of conduct, which urges employees, among other things, to "Be honest and accurate in all communications; honor publication embargoes; respond promptly to media requests and respect media deadlines; act promptly to correct mistakes or erroneous information, either internally or externally," and "promote the free flow of scientific and technical information."

Griffin, in a message to NASA employees, explained that the parameters were developed by a policy group comprising scientists, engineers, lawyers, public affairs staff, and managers. 

"Scientific and technical information concerning agency programs and projects will be accurate and unfiltered," he wrote, taking pains to note that the new treatise spells out what public affairs staff "can and cannot do."

He guarantees that the new program means NASA scientists "may communicate their conclusions to the media, but requires that they draw a distinction between professional conclusions and personal views that may go beyond the scope of their particular technical work."

The report follows the resignation in February of political appointee George Deutsch, who was emblematic of the administration's attempts to limit reporter access to information contrary to its ideology. 

Deutsch stymied reporters' access to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, changed language on reports and press releases to make references favorable to administration policy, and lied on his resume, claiming he had earned a college degree.

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