White House Urged to Tighten Scientific Integrity Policy

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Thursday, April 13, 2023
Jeff Ruch  (510) 213-7028


White House Urged to Tighten Scientific Integrity Policy

Government-Wide Enforceable Transparency & Accountability Rules Needed


Washington, DC — The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s template for rewriting scientific integrity policies in all agencies needs a much higher degree of precision to be effective, according to a letter sent today to OSTP by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and a coalition of a dozen public health, transparency, and environmental groups. The groups cite the lack of clear standards for conducting misconduct investigations, punishing violators, and protecting targeted scientists, among other shortcomings.

Just a week after his inauguration, President Biden directed his OSTP to oversee a process to strengthen scientific integrity policies commissioned under Obama that had proven to be utterly ineffectual under Trump. This January, OSTP unveiled guidance to agencies for bolstering their policies for preventing political manipulation or suppression of scientific research and findings.

Over the next several months, agencies are supposed to submit their proposed reforms to OSTP for review before being finalized. Since the essence of the Biden effort is causing agencies to exercise self-restraint in attempting to spin or censor scientific or technical information, the coalition signatories see the need for unmistakably clear, transparent procedures governing –

    • How allegations of scientific misconduct are investigated and documented;
    • What penalties will be imposed to hold all scientific integrity violators accountable, including political appointees; and
    • What protections will be extended to scientists against retaliation when they engage in policy dissent or produce research that may clash with the agency’s position.

“President Biden directed stronger scientific integrity policies as an indispensable step in restoring public trust in Government,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “These are core elements each scientific integrity policy must embrace to be credible.”

Another issue groups raise is OSTP’s failure to stipulate explicit written policies that delineate scientists’ ability to communicate with the media and public about their areas of expertise and allow for prompt clearance of scientific materials.

“Transparency is the key prophylactic measure for preventing scientific misconduct from occurring in the first place,” added Whitehouse. “Without stronger safeguards, agencies will always be tempted to block any information that does not support their official talking points.”

The coalition critique is timed to affect OSTP decision-making during this critical gestation period for developing new government-wide scientific integrity policies.


Read the coalition letter  

View the OSTP Model Policy  

Look at gaping holes in the OSTP model 

Examine a critical OSTP move that would chill scientific discourse

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