“The American people must have confidence that the Department of the Interior is basing its decisions on the best available science and that the scientific process is free of misconduct or improper influence,” Salazar said. “This policy clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of all department employees, including career staff and political appointees, in upholding principles of scientific integrity and conduct.”
The new policy, which will be codified in the Departmental Manual to ensure compliance by all employees, clearly affirms that Interior employees, political and career, will never suppress scientific or technological findings or conclusions. Further, it ensures scientists will not be coerced to alter or censure scientific findings, and employees will be protected if they uncover and report scientific misconduct by career or political staff.
The new policy is consistent with the Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, dated March, 9, 2009, and will conform with the expected 2010 guidance and recommendations of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The Department has been working on a policy on scientific integrity for a number of years. The Department put out a draft for public comment in 2010, and many commenters noted that it did not sufficiently address scientific conduct by political appointees or use of scientific information in decision-making. The policy directive issued by Secretary Salazar today clearly applies the same standards of conduct to both political appointees and career appointees and forbids the alteration of scientific findings in policy-making activities.
The policy covers all departmental employees when they engage in, supervise or manage scientific activities, analyze and/or publicly communicate information resulting from scientific activities, or use this information or analyses in making agency policy, management or regulatory decisions. It also covers all contractors, cooperators, partners, volunteers, and permitees who assist with scientific activities.
The secretarial order, whose implementation will be overseen by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, incorporates the following principles:
- The Interior Department values science and science plays a vital role in helping us meet the department’s mission. As such, when scientific or technological information is considered in decision making, the information will be as robust, of the highest quality, and the result of rigorous scientific processes as can be achieved within the available decision time-frame.
- Interior Bureaus and Offices will document and make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in decision making, except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum.
- The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions and positions that are decision making in nature where those decisions rely on scientific information to inform the process, shall be based on the candidate's knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.
- Clear and unambiguous codes of conduct for scientific activities and use of science in decision making will establish expectations of employees with regard to scientific integrity. Misconduct will not be tolerated. Allegations of misconduct will be investigated and disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate.
- Interior will identify, address, track, and resolve instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised.
- Interior will establish procedures and as appropriate, clarify whistleblower protections to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decision making or otherwise uses or prepares.
- Interior scientists have rights as citizens and responsibilities as government employees. These rights and responsibilities with regard to communication with the public will be clearly delineated.
- Interior encourages the enhancement of scientific integrity through engagement with the communities of practice represented by professional societies. Interior scientists, scholars and other professionals are encouraged to engage in scientific, scholarly and other activities with these professional networks. These Interior employees will recuse themselves when appropriate and avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Click here to view the Secretarial Order.