On September 1, CSLDF and 10 other progressive, science-forward organizations submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Specifically, the Office of Science and Data Policy at HHS requested public comments to its draft scientific integrity policy. CSLDF has an interest in protecting unfettered scientific study at HHS, which includes research into climate health and how it affects the most disadvantaged communities. Climate health research has been silenced in the past, and this topic will only become more important as climate change worsens in the future.
To fully protect the scientific endeavor, HHS needs a robust scientific integrity policy in place to guard against political interference and retaliation, and ensure scientists’ ability to communicate their science safely and effectively to the media and public. CSLDF previously reviewed scientific integrity policies at key federal agencies and found many policies lacking fundamental provisions; the policy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), part of HHS, for example, currently does not prohibit political interference. We’ve also drafted our own model scientific integrity policy for federal agencies to use as a guide when creating their own policies.
We were pleased to see that HHS has included some essential reforms in its new draft policy, like prohibiting political interference. Our collective recommendations to HHS for further improvements include, among other things: inputting penalties to deter wrongdoing—such as more explicit procedures for investigating allegations; incorporating language regarding conflicts of interest on federal advisory committees; including language on the importance of equity in the workforce; and offering protections and accountability for grantees.
CSLDF is confident that these easy but meaningful changes will make HHS’s scientific integrity policy a stronger tool for protecting science from improper interference.
Overall, we are thrilled to see the Biden administration making serious strides in implementing stronger scientific integrity policies. HHS’s draft scientific integrity policy represents an important step toward ensuring that agency scientists and decision makers are protected and empowered to lead with the best available scientific evidence. As always, CSLDF will continue to advocate for greater protections for scientists working on critical issues like climate health.
Read more in Government Executive: First revamped science policy falls short of fulfilling Biden’s promise to protect scientists, watchdogs say