Scientific Integrity Policies Submitted to OSTP

Federal departments and agencies are making good progress on the development of scientific integrity policies, as initially called for by OSTP director John Holdren in a December 2010 Executive Branch memorandum. Some 19 Federal entities had submitted either draft or final policies as of last week, the deadline Dr. Holdren had set for draft submissions.

That number is smaller than the 30 agencies and departments that had responded in April to an OSTP call for progress reports, but it includes the full spectrum of departments and agencies that had responded at that time. The smaller number reflects the fact that some departments have since decided to develop policies that will apply broadly to a number of their daughter agencies.

For example, the Department of Defense is developing a policy that will apply to several branches that had initially been tallied individually, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ draft policy will apply to multiple components that Dr. Holdren had initially contacted individually, including the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Over time, some individual agencies covered by their parent departments’ policies are expected to follow up with policies of their own with additional elements specific to their missions. Indeed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—components of the Department of Commerce—are already developing their own policies, which will complement the overarching policy that Commerce has already developed for all of its components. But the 19 policies received by OSTP last week—along with three others that are going through agency clearances and are expected to be delivered to OSTP soon—cover all the Federal entities described by OSTP in its April 21st update.

Dr. Holdren’s latest directive of May 5 had asked that agencies and departments submit drafts of their policies by last week. However, five Federal entities went further and submitted final policies. The five were NASA (with plans to make modest changes by fall); the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and Interior (which had finished and submitted its policy earlier this year); and the Intelligence Communities represented by the Director of National Intelligence.

OSTP also received 13 draft policies—from NOAA; the National Science Foundation; the Environmental  Protection Agency; the Social Security Administration; the Veterans Administration; and the Departments of  Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Transportation.

In addition, OSTP has crafted a draft policy that would apply to its activities and is under consideration for adoption by the Council on Environmental Quality. OSTP is also working with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that all relevant offices within the Executive Office of the President will be covered by an appropriate policy.

Finally, the Department of State and the US Agency for International Development have notified OSTP that their respective draft policies are in clearance and will be submitted soon, while Commerce has notified OSTP that NIST’s policy is under development.

OSTP appreciates the hard work agencies and departments have devoted to the important task of codifying their commitments to scientific integrity, and will be working with them this fall as they finalize their policies. At the same time, it’s important to remember that scientific integrity has been a firm commitment from the earliest days of this Administration—as evidenced by the President’s 2009 memorandum, which expressed the basic principles of integrity expected of all agencies, as well as by the extraordinary scientists the Administration has brought on board, the budgets it has proposed, and the evidence-based policies it has supported.

The steps taken by these departments and agencies are a big step forward to ensuring scientific integrity across the Federal government.

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