Scientific Integrity Policies Released

Responding to an initial call by the President—amplified in a memorandum developed by my office with significant input from science stakeholders and the public—departments and agencies across the Federal government have been diligently crafting scientific-integrity policies to guide them as they pursue their diverse missions. As I’ve documented in previous blog posts, the number of agencies that have worked this complex process to completion has grown steadily in the past year. By December 2011, all departments and agencies with science and technology as core parts of their mission had either completed or were very close to completing their policies. But most were still conducting internal reviews and had not made their policies public.

In February, in keeping with this Administration’s commitment to maximizing openness and transparency, I asked all departments and agencies to make their policies public by March 30, whether those policies were final or still in final draft form. The response was positive; as of this week almost every covered Federal entity is in compliance, and the few remaining others report they are very close to unveiling their final policies.

Specifically, the following departments and agencies have released their scientific integrity policies: the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human ServicesInterior, Justice, State, and Transportation, as well as the US Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Mammal Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science FoundationIntelligence Community, and Veterans Affairs.

Three Departments reported last week that they would miss the March 30 deadline but expect to release their policies very soon—most likely by the end of this month. They are the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Labor.

The crafting of these policies has not been easy. In many instances, officials sought broad input from multiple stakeholder groups, including unions and other employee groups as well as outside experts. Decisions had to be made about how to apply the new policies—whether, for example, they would cover contractors, grantees, and other categories of scientists and engineers not employed full time by the Federal government. Discussions ensued as to whether statisticians, social and behavioral scientists, and others not always included under the conventional umbrella of “scientists and engineers” would be covered by the policies (in general, yes). This process has been time-consuming, but, I would argue, exceedingly important. Through it all, the prime importance of scientific integrity—the need to ensure that Americans can trust the results of federally supported science—has been elevated and made explicit in numerous ways.

I appreciate all the work that departments and agencies have put into this process. The Nation’s scientific enterprise is stronger for it, and promises to be stronger for many years to come.

(Corrected on 4/11 to reflect the fact that HHS did, in fact, make its final policy available on March 30.)

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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