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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
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An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Interior Department Inks Scientific Integrity Policy
1 February 2011 5:59 pm
The Department of the Interior (DOI) has finalized its policy on scientific integrity, creating code of conduct and procedures for investigation, as well as designating an official in charge. The policy was warmly welcomed by science organizations and advocates. But some details remain murky, such as whether whistleblowers will be protected in all situations. The policy is also vague about how it will ensure the transparency of science in decision-making.
Not long after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama called for a strategy to ensure scientific integrity at federal agencies and asked the Office of Science and Technology Policy to come up with recommendations. Even before OSTP finished its guidance, DOI had released a draft policy. Today the agency published its official policy.
All employees from scientists to policy makers, the departmental manual now declares, should "act in the interest of the advancement of science and scholarship for sound decision making, by using the most appropriate, best available, high quality scientific and scholarly data and information." There's also list of further requirements for scientists. (Note to peer-reviewers: "professional jealousy" is now verboten.)
The policy clearly spells out what employees should do if they suspect scientific misconduct and how it will be investigated. Ralph Morgenweck, a senior science advisor at the department's Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), was appointed as the chief scientific integrity officer who will review allegations of misconduct.
Jeff Ruch of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says the policy is big step in the right direction and praises DOI for being the first agency to formalize a new policy. "We're glad they're finally venturing to this level" of detail, he says. (PEER's analysis is here.) But Ruch says the agency should have specifically stated that it will protect whistleblowing about scientific misconduct. The Whistleblower Protection Act covers federal employees who report crime, gross mismanagement or danger—but not necessarily scientific misconduct, Ruch says. According an agency official: "Scientists are fully protected under Federal Whistleblower protections and this policy acknowledges those protections."
Ruch also wishes that the policy explicitly stated the rights of agency scientists to publish their findings (as is FWS's) and to communicate with the media, as opposed to simply saying they "may" do that. The policy also lacks detail about how it will ensure transparency of scientific information used to make decisions. There are no timelines for releasing information mentioned, for example. DOI responds that "the addition of the scientific integrity officers as outlined in this new policy strengthens Interior's commitment to transparent, science-based decision-making."