Next Steps to Ensuring Scientific Integrity

One of my overarching tasks as the President’s science and technology advisor and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is to ensure the integrity of scientific and technical work across the executive branch.  It is a broad responsibility, made explicit by President Obama in his March 9, 2009, Presidential Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, and one that I and my office have taken historic steps to fulfill.

One of those steps was a decision to work with departments and agencies to help them develop individual scientific integrity policies tailored to each entity’s mission, responsibilities, and needs. By codifying, for the first time, explicit practices to protect scientific integrity in each department and agency, we are helping to ensure that the important goals of technical rigor, transparency, and protecting science from political interference are achieved not only in this Administration but in future Administrations as well.

Last week, this office took another significant step in this process by setting a deadline of December 17, 2011, for departments and agencies to submit for OSTP review their draft final policies—that is, versions they consider to be ready for a final round of internal review. OSTP has been providing specific feedback to departments and agencies on their draft policies and will continue to do so. I am also encouraging all departments and agencies that have not already made drafts of their policies available for public comment to post publicly either the versions they submit to OSTP in December or the versions that result from OSTP’s feedback on those drafts. Our experience with agencies that have already done so has been that draft policies tend to improve considerably as a result of public input.  

While these policies make their way through the last stages of review and release, it is important to keep in mind that ground rules for scientific integrity have been in place since the earliest days of this Administration, fulfilling a promise President Obama made on Inauguration Day to “restore science to its rightful place.”   In his March 2009 Memorandum, the President articulated six guiding principles of scientific integrity, effective immediately, and he called upon me to provide recommendations for further ensuring scientific integrity across the executive branch. In response to that call, I released a Memorandum that further articulated the essentials of what this Administration expects each departmental and agency scientific integrity policy to include.

It is exciting to see departments and agencies working through the process of crafting foundational policies that will ensure scientific integrity well into the future.   

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

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