Ensuring the integrity of science has been a priority for the Obama Administration. In his inaugural address in January of 2009, President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place.” In March 2009, the President issued a Presidential Memorandum that recognized the need for the public to be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions.
The Presidential memorandum articulated a set of principles to guide scientific integrity in Federal agencies: political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions; scientific and technological information used by the Federal Government should ordinarily be made available to the public; the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking should be transparent to the extent permitted by law; and the selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.
The memorandum assigned the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy responsibility for ensuring the “highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes” and for developing recommendations to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.
Six years ago, on December 17, 2010, Dr. John Holdren the Director of OSTP and Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, issued a Memorandum providing guidelines for Federal departments and agencies to follow in developing scientific integrity policies. This Memorandum describes minimum standards for: (1) strengthening the foundations of scientific integrity in government, including by shielding scientific data and analysis from inappropriate political influence; (2) improving public communication about science and technology by promoting openness and transparency; (3) enhancing the ability of Federal Advisory Committees to provide independent scientific advice; and (4) supporting the professional development of government scientists and engineers. The Memorandum called upon the heads of departments and agencies to develop scientific integrity policies that meet these requirements.
Since that time, 24 Federal departments and agencies have developed and implemented scientific integrity policies consistent with the OSTP guidelines. An updated set of links to agency scientific integrity policies is now available on the OSTP website. Agencies are also taking steps to share tools and good practices to improve the implementation of scientific integrity policies across the Federal government. Some are incorporating scientific integrity policies into broader frameworks to improve the quality and trustworthiness of scientific research results produced or used by Federal agencies.
These steps represent significant accomplishments in enhancing scientific integrity and ensuring that the public can trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions.
Kei Koizumi is Assistant Director for Federal Research and Development at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Jerry Sheehan is Assistant Director for Scientific Data and Information at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.