The FDA’s new social media policy, posted online today, earns an A, or 90 out of 100 points on the scale created for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Grading Government Transparency report. This puts the FDA near the top of the class in terms of policy quality. By comparison, other agencies ranged from a D to an A on this scale. Here’s what earned the FDA high marks.
The FDA provides scientists with the freedom to tweet
The FDA just unveiled its new social media policy, which provides guidance to their employees on use of social media for official and personal purposes.
A substantial portion of points came from its distinction between official and personal use of social media, and notably, the freedom it gives to its employees on the latter. Not all agencies’ policies made this important distinction in clarifying how their employees can use social media and only a few match or exceed the FDA policy’s excellent guidance on personal use of social media.
The FDA policy states, “To use social media in his or her personal capacity, an employee does not need to obtain permission or approval…” and “an employee may include his or her title of position in an area of the social media account designated for biographical information.” The policy also encourages use of a disclaimer if employees have concerns that use of social media may create the impression of agency views. Other agencies with strong language in this area are the Department of the Interior and the National Institutes Health social media policies
FDA provides their scientists with the right to corrections on social media
Another strong feature of the FDA social media policy is its provision outlining the right and procedure for scientists to get corrections for anything that relies on their science that’s incorrectly put out on social media (either by accident or intent). This is a provision that UCS first advocated in a 2013 report, as the social media-equivalent of scientists’ right of last review—that is, the right of scientists to review public communications that rely on their science. This pre-approval policy makes sense for press releases, reports and the like but isn’t practical for the fast-paced nature of social media. As a result, scientists should have a right to correction for anything sent out on social media with inaccuracies. Within hours of UCS issuing this recommendation, theU.S. Geological Survey revised their social media to include such a provision.
Now the FDA joins USGS as the only other agency with this important provision. The FDA policy states that, “an agency employee can request that an agency social media communication be corrected, amended, or clarified if (1) the communication is based upon the research published work of the employee or purports to express the employees views by name or title; and (2) the communication is false, misleading or confusing.” The policy then goes on to outline the procedure an employee would take to obtain such a correction.