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CSLDF Files Comments on How to Improve Scientific Integrity Framework

On Monday, April 4, CSLDF filed comments in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)’s Request for Information to Support the Development of a Federal Scientific Integrity Policy Framework.

While most federal agencies have policies to protect government science, known as scientific integrity policies, these policies were evidentially insufficient to protect against the abuses of the past few years. From retaliation against whistleblowers to political interference, numerous threats plague federal scientific researchers, particularly those who have been historically underrepresented in science. CSLDF’s own records reveal that 53 scientists sought our assistance specifically for scientific integrity issues from 2017 to present. We hope the Biden administration can institute the necessary reforms to update and improve federal scientific integrity polices and better protect future researchers.

Having developed a model scientific integrity policy, CSLDF’s comments to OSTP build upon this work by encouraging agencies to adopt similarly rigorous policies if they do not already exist, or to strengthen existing policies that do not address, for example, enforcement.

More specifically, we urge federal agencies to establish transparent processes for filing and investigating complaints; to develop clear penalties for violations of scientific integrity; and to ensure that attempted violations of scientific integrity are still penalized as “successful” violations. Further, we implore OSTP to strengthen prohibitions against political interference, and provide meaningful protections to prevent retaliation against those who raise scientific integrity concerns. We also describe how federal agencies can incorporate stricter requirements related to conflicts of interest.

In addition, CSLDF’s comments underscore the importance of ensuring scientists can communicate about their work and personal opinions. This can be achieved, for example, by explicitly protecting scientists’ rights to communicate their work to the media and the public, and by making clear that scientists have rights to make public statements of opinion as private citizens. Finally, we explain how federal agencies can strengthen their cultures of scientific integrity, and why it is vital to do so.

Federal agency scientists and researchers carry out work that is essential to environmental protection and public safety. By strengthening the federal scientific integrity policy framework, the Biden administration can increase resilience against political interference and other threats to science far into the future.

Read CSLDF’s full comments here.

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