A federal entomologist from South Dakota has received an award for civic courage stemming from his complaints about attempts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to block his research.
Jonathan Lundgren, a research entomologist at the USDA's North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Brookings, received the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, Dana Ferguson reported in the Argus Leader.
The award is given to a few recipients each year who "with integrity and at some personal risk, take a public stance to advance truth and justice and who challenge prevailing conditions in pursuit of the common good."
Lundgren, 40, said the award could bring additional dialogue about academic and scientific freedom. Lundgren's receipt of the award comes a month after he filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board against the USDA.
Lundgren published research earlier this year that showed the adverse effects of certain insecticides on monarch butterflies and bees. He said Monday that the USDA attempted to hamper his efforts to publish the research and barred him from speaking with the media about his work. The department also suspended Lundgren for 14 days in August for publishing the report the department deemed "sensitive" and for having errors in travel authorization forms related to his presentation of the report, he said.
In his complaint to the board, filed by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on his behalf, Lundgren says he was suspended after lodging a complaint with the Scientific Integrity Officers for the USDA's Agriculture Research Service. PEER is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals.
“There was official effort to stop me from talking about science that was creating inconvenient results,” Lundgren said. “I was sort of forced into filing complaints and standing up for what I thought was right."
Lundgren said he was surprised by the news that he'd received the award.
“I was completely blindsided,” Lundgren said. “I’m just an entomologist in South Dakota for goodness' sakes.”
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