Political activity, media interviews and you

John Myer

Katie Yurkewicz

With the March for Science taking place across the country this Saturday, now is a good time for all of us to refresh our memories about Fermilab’s policies on political activity and communicating with reporters.

The rights to free speech and assembly are among our country’s most cherished, and as individuals we are all free to exercise those rights. This includes taking part in protests, supporting political candidates and talking with reporters on any subject you wish–as long as these activities are carried out on your own time, using your own resources (money and technology), and in your capacity as an individual.

Since Fermilab is a federally funded research organization, in public forums the laboratory must remain neutral on political activities, matters of policy, and federal funding levels. Fermilab’s Communication Policy and Interactions with Government Officials Policy are in place to protect both you and the laboratory. They include guidelines and requirements for lab employees interacting with officials at all levels of government, participating in political activities, and interacting with the media.

Should you choose to participate in political activities, you must not create or infer an association between yourself or the activity and Fermilab, Fermi Research Alliance or the Department of Energy. You also must not use laboratory property (including phones and laptops) while participating in those activities, or carry out the activities during work hours. For example, you may not use Fermilab letterhead, Fermilab email accounts or Fermilab phones or computers to sign petitions, invite friends to protests, or send letters to members of Congress attempting to influence their position on policies.

When it comes to interviews with reporters, as a representative of Fermilab you are encouraged to talk about your area of expertise, the laboratory’s programs, and your experiments’ approved results–as long as you notify the Office of Communication (media@fnal.gov, x3351) either before or after the interview. When it comes to topics such as federal policy or proposed or adopted budgets, you must get approval from the Office of Communication before speaking to the media, or avoid those topics if you do not have prior approval and they are raised during an interview. As an individual you are free to participate in any interview you wish, or write an article on any topic you wish, as long as you make it clear that you are acting on your own behalf and that your views do not represent those of Fermilab, Fermi Research Alliance or the U.S. Government.

For further guidance, please read the Communication Policy and Interactions with Government Officials Policy. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us (jmyer@fnal.gov or katie@fnal.gov).

John Myer is Fermilab’s general counsel. Katie Yurkewicz is the Fermilab assistant director for communications.