Advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has found a new reason to grumble about how the FDA handles social media. Having faced years of criticism for its failure to publish guidelines on how the industry can use social media, the FDA is now being chastised over its lack of a policy for its staff.
The UCS commented on FDA's approach to social media after analyzing and grading the policies in place at 17 government agencies. Some organizations, such as the U.S. Geological Survey, were considered to have excellent social media policies. Others, namely the U.S. Department of Agriculture, were regarded as having poor internal guidance documents. However, only one agency was found to be completely lacking in a policy: FDA.
Gretchen Goldman of UCS views the lack of a policy as a problem. "For federal agencies, having social-media-savvy scientists is mutually beneficial," Goldman wrote in a blog post. "Agencies benefit by having knowledgeable ambassadors for their agency speaking to diverse audiences through social media, and scientists are able to speak freely about their work." Some FDA staff are on social media, but as it stands the rules of engagement are unclear.
The FDA is aware of the issue. The regulator was working on a policy when UCS wrapped up its previous analysis in 2012, but a document has yet to emerge. A May 2014 deadline came and went, leaving the project listed as being delayed with no target completion date. The stalling of the policy has occurred during a period in which other aspects of FDA's online activity have motored ahead. Draft guidances are in place and official FDA social media accounts are active, but staffers still lack guidance.
"FDA does great science and has great scientists--I'd love to hear more from them on social media," Goldman wrote.