Share your ideas on Transparency
How can HHS promote accountability, improve public understanding of what HHS does, help illuminate what’s going on with respect to the nation’s health and well-being, help spark action and innovation to bring Americans inside HHS and our operating divisions? (Examples: web casting, video, data sets we should publish, feedback on the quality of the data, etc.)
Invite regular people into HHS to shadow leaders and staff and let them report back by video/webcast on what is going on in the different programs of HHS. Monthly/outreach campaign/diverse groups - kids, adults, etc. talking to regular people, what gets the leadership and staff of HHS fired-up, worried, excited, etc.? Find out what the American people are worried about, etc.
I agree with Tim. And I would urge the development of participatory democracy by local discussions of these issues.
Publish research in progress and results on HHS website, with quarterly updates. Allow HHS scientists to publish results of studies without political editing or witholding of results. Aloow HHS researchers to express personal opinions on critical research and health policy issues without censoring, as long as they clearly state that their comments do not reflect official HHS agency positions.
Emphasize the need to share both internally and externally. If we can't find some our own agency info, no wonder outsiders are left in the dark. Some think we must have something to hide if we don't post much more in various places and invite comments.
Open communication is of course the basis and foundation for trust among individuals and between individuals and the institutions of government. This policy is long overdue.
Town Hall meetings around the nation to solicit ideas from the public as well as to educate taxpayers as to how their money is spend. A brief report on the activities of the HHS with some data should be included as a prelude to the discussions. These townhall meetings can be conducted as public forums and also should include universities as possible venues.
1) Hitting the "Comment Policy" link on this comment form before hitting "submit" should not make my comment disappear so that I have to write it all over again. That's VERY frustrating, and very poor design. 2) Every major HHS program should have a regularly-updated website, and these websites should be set up in a timely fashion. The ESAR-VHP program, for instance, is several times older than my toddler and it STILL doesn't have a webpage. How the program is expected to achieve its goals, support the states in their volunteer recruitment efforts, make the case for cooperation to the local MRC units it relies on in many states, etc., without a webpage is beyond me. 3) I appreciate the ability to sign up for email notifications to alert me to changes at key HHS websites, but these emails should include a blurb telling me WHAT has changed, not simply a sentence telling me THAT something has changed.
The HHS must improve its media policy to allow free and open communication among scientists, the media, policy makers, and the public. Strong policies that protect the ability of scientists to communicate and participate fully in their scientific communities are essential components of an open and accountable government. It should be a government by the people and for the people and an open and accountable government is essential for this.
Transparency and the ability to speak freely and without fear of repercussion are essential if we are to have the scientific data and research that we need.
Allow DHHS experts to speak freely to the public Unlike other federal departments such as the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) currently lacks a comprehensive policy governing how agency scientists and experts can interact with the public and the media. As a result, the ability of DHHS scientists to speak freely about their research is not uniformly protected and varies from agency to agency within DHHS. Placing data sets on the website only gets us part of the way to government transparency. The next big step will involve changing the culture of the department and allowing its experts to provide for context and interpretation of those data sets. Therefore, in order to promote transparency and the free exchange of scientific ideas, the DHHS should adopt a department-wide communications policy that protects the right of its employees to speak with the public and the media. Such "open" communications policies have already been adopted at places like NASA and NOAA and should pose no problems at the DHHS. Any such policy should incorporate the following principles: • Scientists and researchers may freely express their personal views. All federal employees have a right to express their personal views outside of a few narrow restrictions (such as releasing classified or proprietary information), provided that he or she makes an explicit disclaimer that he or she is speaking as a private citizen and is not seeking to represent official agency policy. He or she should be allowed to speak freely about his or her research and to offer his or her scientific analysis--even in situations where the research may be controversial or have implications for government policy. Agency policies governing communication with the media should make this option clear and explicit to employees. • A scientist or researcher has the right to review, amend, and comment publicly on the final version of any document or publication that significantly relies on his or her research, identifies him or her as an author or contributor, or purports to represent his or her scientific opinion. While editing by non-scientists is often necessary and useful, final review by scientific experts is essential to ensuring that accuracy has been maintained in the clearance process. • Agency employees have clearly defined responsibilities in working with the media. Employees are responsible for the accuracy and integrity of their communications and should not represent the agency on issues of politics or policy without prior approval from the agency’s public affairs officer (PAO). Employees are also responsible for working with the PAO to make significant research developments accessible and comprehensible to the public. • PAOs have clearly defined roles, such as responding promptly to media inquiries and providing journalists and agency staff with accurate information, but not acting as "gatekeepers" of information. Scientists and researchers should not be required to obtain pre-approval from the PAO before responding to a media request about their research. However, it is appropriate to require scientists and researchers to give the PAO prior notice of such interactions when possible, and to recap the interview afterward. • Public affairs staff should have a plan for disseminating the media policy to agency scientists and researchers and should conduct trainings in effective media communication that emphasize scientific openness. The official agency media policy should be publicly available on the agency website. Timothy Donaghy Scientific Integrity Analyst Union of Concerned Scientists