CSLDF and Sabin Center File Comments on How to Improve Scientific Integrity

Today, July 28, CSLDF and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School filed joint comments in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)’s Request for Information to Improve Scientific Integrity Policies.

Existing scientific integrity policies have often failed to stop political interference in, and distortion of, federal scientific research—despite being in place since a 2009 Presidential Memorandum and a 2010 OSTP Memorandum. Our Silencing Science Tracker, managed together by CSLDF and the Sabin Center, has documented 343 reports of anti-science actions by federal government officials since the November 2016 election, well after most relevant agencies had scientific integrity policies in place.

Building on CSLDF’s research into how agencies currently address scientific integrity issues, and CSLDF’s model scientific integrity policy, our joint comments to OSTP provide specific recommendations for strengthening how these policies are written and enforced. We urge OSTP to ensure that scientific integrity policies include stronger protections against political interference with scientific research and activities. We outline how agencies can better protect scientists’ rights to communicate about their work and expertise. We also urge stronger requirements related conflicts of interest, and better safeguards against retaliation for those who report violations.

In addition, we describe how agencies can make their scientific integrity policies more effective by ensuring that they include clearer and more detailed processes and procedures for the filing, evaluation, investigation, and resolution of scientific integrity complaints. We also encourage OSTP to ensure that agency scientific integrity policies include clear and meaningful penalties when violations are found. Finally, we emphasize the importance of ensuring that agency personnel are aware of scientific integrity policies, and have confidence that they will be meaningfully and consistently enforced.

Protecting science is a fundamental component to preserving human health and the environment, and the grim events of the last few years—from climate change to the pandemic—illustrate the necessity of safeguarding science and science-based policies.

By working to strengthen scientific integrity policies, and ensuring that agencies foster a robust culture of scientific integrity, the Biden administration can meaningfully reinvigorate federal science and make it more resilient against political interference and similar threats in the future.

Read the comments here.

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