Washington, DC — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unveiling a detailed plan governing the “visual style” for all communications in order to enhance and extend the agency “brand,” according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A new manual lays out rules governing every aspect of the format for all scientific reports, PowerPoint presentations, podium signs and backdrops as well as promotional items such as mouse pads, pens, mugs and tote bags.
“EPA still lacks a plan to address global warming but has an agenda for how its pocket protectors are supposed to look,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the agency has been avoiding making decisions affecting greenhouse gases even after a Supreme Court decision affirmed that EPA has authority to act. In addition, EPA has a large and growing list of uncompleted tasks ranging from ozone standards to lead-paint protections. “EPA scientists mightily resent being directed to concern themselves with public imagery rather than public health.”
A new EPA manual for “Visual and Product Standards” will be officially unveiled in July. These standards specify requirements for every aspect of communication products, down to allowable fonts, acceptable color combinations, the size and position of the agency logo, as well as the placement and layout of photos and artwork.
Compliance with these standards will be mandatory, enforced by potential disciplinary action. This imagery blueprint is a component of an agency-wide plan for “brand consolidation [and] extension” to “support an integrated image inside and outside the organization.”
“The notion that a scientist could face discipline for using the wrong font in a PowerPoint presentation or speaking from a podium without an EPA-approved backdrop is just plain nuts,” Ruch added. “God forbid that a scientist employs creativity in a presenting a research paper.”
Agency scientists also object to diversion of funds for image-building efforts at the same time the Bush administration is pursuing cuts in research budgets and is developing plans to shut down laboratories.
At the same time, EPA is spending millions of dollars on a public relations program (called “Science For You”) to enhance the image of its research program. As part of the effort, the agency has surveyed what it considers “influential” news editors on how they regard the quality of EPA work.
EPA claims that its standardization of stylistic details produces costs savings but does not indicate whether any such efficiency is significant or even whether any savings are greater than the time and expense costs of producing an elaborate style manual.