WASHINGTON (March 15, 2019)—On Wednesday, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced the Scientific Integrity Act. This bill would defend the role and independence of science in the federal government and ensure that all Americans can benefit from the work of federal scientists.
As organizations working in the public interest, we know the importance of the federal government’s scientific enterprise. All of us depend on federal science and the hard work of federal scientists to protect our health, safety, economy and environment. Unfortunately, federal science is often at risk from political interference.
The Scientific Integrity Act would promote the public interest by ensuring scientists can carry out their research—and share it with the public—without fear of political pressure or retaliation.
It would enable scientists to talk about their research in public, with reporters, in scientific journals, and at scientific conferences.
It would prohibit political appointees from altering or suppressing scientific findings and give scientists final review over how agencies use their work. It also would ensure that federal agencies designate scientific integrity officers and provide federal employees with ethics training to help prevent misconduct.
Quotes from Supporting Organizations:
“The Scientific Integrity Act is an important step forward for safeguarding scientific integrity at federal agencies, and it improves the legal options available for federal scientists who are facing increasing levels of censorship, research hindrances, and misrepresentation of established facts. As the Scientific Integrity Act recognizes, it is imperative to have legally-protected pathways to challenge and correct scientific integrity violations.”
-Lauren Kurtz, Executive Director, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund
“We have long recognized the critical importance of good, unmanipulated science to inform wildlife conservation, as is so clearly articulated in the Endangered Species Act. The Scientific Integrity Act is a much-needed law to close the gap that has allowed special interests to unduly shape the outcomes of fundamental and applied research that affects the lives of people and wildlife every single day. The sooner this bill is passed and signed into law, the sooner we can stop the Trump administration and future administrations from undermining science.”
-Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO, Defenders of Wildlife
“This legislation would put teeth in the rights of scientific whistleblowers that have been gaining symbolic traction since the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. That year Congress created the beach head by protecting those who refuse to violate the law, which occurs when censorship means false statements by government employees. In the 2012 Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Congress made it protected speech to challenge obstruction or censorship of scientific research. This legislation is a breakthrough adding accountability and expanding the scope to those principles everywhere they apply. Instead of merely having the right to act legally, the law would make research misconduct or censorship illegal. It would make the free flow of non-political scientific research a protected activity. It even allows government scientists when speaking as individuals to present their official credentials. In the past, agencies have threatened to fire scientists for so-called ethics violations when they disclosed their credentials. The goal of this bill is to counter the growing threat of substituting political science for the scientific method. Our nation already is regularly suffering the consequences of political science that contaminates the laboratory. It is serious legislation that deserves prompt action.”
-Tom Devine, Legal Director, Government Accountability Project
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen federal agencies disregard evidence and take apparently politically motivated actions that harm women’s health, such as canceling Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants and rolling back the employer contraceptive mandate. Given recent instances where ideology has seemingly supplanted science around women’s health, we applaud this bill for promoting the role of science to guide policy decisions on public health.”
-Susan Wood, Executive Director, Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health
“From environmental protection to women’s health and economic security, we rely on scientific integrity in policymaking to protect public health and well-being. Our government should be using science and evidence-based information to protect public health — but frighteningly, they’re doing the opposite. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the administration’s relentless, anti-science approach to undermining reproductive health care. The Scientific Integrity Act would enact strong scientific integrity policies that protect both research and researchers and would restore public trust in our federal agencies.”
-Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Vice President for Reproductive Health and Rights, National Partnership for Women & Families
“This bill strives to ensure that agency policies reflect the unadulterated work and opinions of professionally trained scientists. American taxpayers deserve to know that the scientific work they fund is actually informing U.S. policy. Hopefully this law will hold accountable those who try to bury scientific evidence and will prevent such attacks on scientific integrity in the future.”
-Rebecca Jones, Policy Counsel, Project on Government Oversight
“SACNAS supports the Scientific Integrity Act of 2019 and stresses that the integrity of scientific research, the objective use of scientific evidence in policy-making and the unbiased sharing of scientific information with the public, should be upheld. Only when scientists from all backgrounds are represented, and science is included when public policy decisions are being made, will we be able to mitigate the risk of vulnerable communities being overlooked, their problems ignored, and their unique needs disregarded. These two conditions are particularly salient for ensuring science for the common good and improving public trust in science.”
-Dr. Sonia Zárate, President, Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science
“Scientists should be able to follow their research wherever it leads, and speak honestly about it to the press, the scientific community and the public. And the public deserves the full benefit of the scientific work of federal agencies. No administration should alter or suppress scientific findings for political ends. Congress can make sure we uphold that standard by passing the Scientific Integrity Act.”
-Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director, Center for Science & Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists
The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund assists climate and other scientists who find themselves with legal issues related to their research. Our role ranges from helping defend scientists from anti-science attacks to advising scientists on their legal rights and responsibilities.