Scientific Integrity Policies Approach Public Release

The Office of Science and Technology Policy recently completed its review of the final draft versions of the scientific integrity policies submitted by more than a dozen Federal departments and agencies last December, and OSTP has now provided detailed feedback to each Federal entity. I am very happy to report that, but for a few modest changes that OSTP has recommended, virtually every draft policy now fulfills or exceeds the minimum requirements I circulated in my Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies.

As I reported in detail in my blog posting last December, a number of departments and agencies have already finalized their policies and have either posted them publicly or are circulating them internally for administrative signoff. Others have posted their final draft policies for public comment or have said they intend to do so once they have incorporated OSTP’s latest suggestions.

In keeping with OSTP’s previously released guidelines, every policy submitted now explicitly insists that federally supported science and scientific information shall remain undiluted and untainted by political influence; every department and agency will, as a matter of policy, practice openness with the public and the media; and science-oriented Federal Advisory Committees—which provide outside expert advice to the government—operate transparently and free of problematic conflicts of interest. All policies now also ensure that Federal scientists and engineers will be accorded the same opportunities to advance their professional careers—through, for example, authorship in professional journals and receipt of awards—as their private-sector counterparts (within the limits set by Federal ethics rules, of course). That commitment will help achieve the important goal of continuing to attract high-quality scientists and engineers to careers in public service. 

I believe it is now time to set a deadline for all agencies and departments to make their policies public—either in final form or in final draft form for public comment. Thus, today, I am asking all of the covered Federal entities to release by March 30, 2012, their final policies or their latest draft versions. Publication and implementation of these policies will close an important chapter in an historic process that promises a new level of government accountability and will help ensure scientific integrity across the executive branch for years to come.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the Obama Administration has been firmly committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity from the beginning of this President’s term, as was made clear in the principles of scientific integrity spelled out by the President a few weeks after taking office. I appreciate all the work that departments and agencies have put into codifying these principles in policy documents that will live long after this exercise is over.

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

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