As written, groups suggest the updated scientific integrity policy can be “weaponized by bad-faith actors.”
The first agency within the Biden administration to rewrite its policy to protect career federal scientists from political influence as required by the White House has taken some positive steps, according to a conglomerate of watchdog groups, but is still falling short of ensuring its workers do not face reprisal and bad actors are held accountable.
The Health and Human Services Department became the first agency to publicly update its Scientific Integrity Policy, following an edict from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to strengthen its protections for civil servants working in science and research. HHS included requirements to protect scientific processes, allow scientists to speak freely without political interference, boost accountability and shield employees from retaliation. Still, according to groups including the Government Accountability Project, the Project on Government Oversight, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the plan left open significant gaps that political appointees could easily exploit to silence scientists or alter their work.