Biden Scientific Integrity Initiative in Limbo

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Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Jeff Ruch (510) 213-7028

Biden Scientific Integrity Initiative in Limbo

Leaderless OSTP Poised to Make Same Mistakes It Did under Obama

Washington, DC — The effort commissioned by President Biden just days after his inauguration to reform notoriously weak scientific integrity policies will fail absent a significant change of approach, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Rather than trying to inspire 36 different federal agencies into rewriting their own policies, PEER is urging the White House to adopt uniform government-wide standards on protecting both federal science and scientists, as well as ensuring scientific transparency.

An overdue report from the Biden Scientific Integrity Task Force released in January indicated the process was already adrift even before the abrupt resignation of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) director. OSTP is supposed to shepherd the revamp of federal scientific integrity policies to completion.

Earlier this month, OSTP solicited another round of public comments to inform its composition of a “framework” for agency scientific integrity policies adopted under 2010 Obama OSTP guidance. PEER had criticized the earlier OSYP guidance as allowing agencies too much leeway, resulting in a mixture of weak and uneven policies that have proven largely ineffectual.

“The current strategy of trying to stimulate three dozen decent agency scientific integrity policies is akin to herding cats,” stated Pacific PEER Jeff Ruch, arguing that OSTP is poised to make the same mistakes it made before. “There is no reason why different agencies should have different definitions, protocols, and practices for the same issue and, in some cases, on the same topic.”

There is currently not even a common definition of scientific integrity, which some agencies do not define at all. PEER advocates OSTP lay down specific rules all agencies must follow in –

    • How allegations of scientific misconduct are investigated, adjudicated, and when sustained, punished, including when the violator is a political appointee;
    • Assuring the ability of all federal scientists to publish, lecture, or give interviews without official approval, as well as new rules to prevent agencies from hiding scientific studies by keeping them in “draft” form; and
    • Establishing legal protection for scientists facing retaliation due to the policy implications or controversial nature of their research.

“Left to their own devices, agencies do not want to give up control of information or allow publication of anything that conflicts with the official talking points. That is why very specific mandatory standards are needed government-wide,” added Ruch. “The Biden administration has the opportunity to put real substance behind the years of rhetoric about scientific integrity. Let’s hope they step up to the plate.”


Read the PEER comments

See OSTP call for comments

View hopelessly vague report from Biden Scientific Integrity Task Force

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