The Sciences

Interior Department is First Govt Agency to Release New Scientific Integrity Guidelines

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFeb 1, 2011 8:09 PM

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Following John Holdren's release of federal scientific integrity guidelines late last year, the DOI is first in line to comply--it just released this very long and detailed policy. News release here. A brief quote from the actual policy:

Scientific and scholarly information considered in Departmental decision making must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved. Most importantly, it must be trustworthy. It is essential that the Department establish and maintain integrity in its scientific and scholarly activities because information from such activities is a critical factor that informs decision making on public policies. Other factors that inform decision making may include economic, budget, institutional, social, cultural, legal and environmental considerations.

I have not read the whole policy yet but AGU has put out an endorsement:

DOI’s policy is innovative. For the first time, it makes clear that responsibility for scientific integrity includes all aspects of agency programs. In addition to scientists, it applies to agency employees, political appointees, volunteers, and those who work with the department in a variety of business relationships. "The fact that Interior can develop a single scientific integrity policy that applies to agencies as diverse as the US Geological Survey (USGS), with its science mission, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, with its social services mission, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducts research in support of natural resources management, bodes well for successful implementation in other departments," said Marcia McNutt, Director of the USGS, Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, and former AGU president. The USGS is the primary science agency within the Department of the Interior. In addition to a code of conduct for scientists, decision-makers, and others, the policy contains detailed procedures for free flow of information and for reporting and resolving allegations regarding scientific or scholarly misconduct.

We can only hope the rest of the government will do so well. As for DOI, if it really supports scientific integrity, there is more that must be done. The agency still needs to amend the online version of this report--for reasons laid out here. Very briefly, the report contains a prominent and serious error or misrepresentation relating to the administration's controversial 6 month drilling moratorium, and needs to be corrected. And the correction shouldn't be hidden, it should be announced when it is made. It's troubling that this has not--so far as I can tell--been done already.

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