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Joint Society Letter on Interior's Scientific Integrity Policy

February 15, 2011

The Honorable Ken Salazar
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar:

The undersigned scientific and professional societies, representing thousands of scientists and resource professionals, many of whom are employed by your Department, thank you for your support of scientific integrity through the recent adoption of the Department of Interior's Scientific Integrity Policy as part of the Department Manual. We especially appreciate the acknowledgement of the benefits of full participation in professional and scholarly societies.

We welcome your commitment to scientific integrity through this policy and we stand ready to work with the Department's agencies to ensure that our nation's resources are managed openly and scientifically. The Department's scientists and managers deserve to work in an environment where scientific findings are appreciated and valued, when concerns about misuse of science are openly expressed, they are not met with retribution, and where decision-makers apply them properly.

Policy is about making decisions that consider different values while obeying and implementing the mandates of the law. If a strong scientific foundation exists that indicates that a certain policy alternative will result in undesirable consequences to some resources if implemented, it is not an abuse of science if that policy alternative is selected as long as the decision makers acknowledge the science but choose the alternative based on the importance of other values. We cannot expect that good science will always result in a minimization of impacts to resources in policy decisions. However, far too frequently, policy makers have abused science and masked the true reasons behind recent policy decisions. We expect the new policy will help to make the process of weighing science, values, and the requirements of the law more transparent, more true to the best available science, and thus more effective at fulfilling the mission of the Department.

We are especially grateful to see participation in professional societies encouraged in this new policy. Scientific and professional organizations play many important roles, including sharing information through scientific and popular publications, facilitating expert networks, providing an independent and science-based perspective on relevant government policies, and offering professional development and certification programs. Such organizations also allow agencies to maintain a diverse and highly qualified professional workforce, help to develop a higher degree of public confidence and trust in professional abilities, and provide greater agency visibility and enhanced professional reputation. Full participation in professional societies is an important part of a scientist or resource manager's career and professional development.

Leadership in professional societies is crucial to many resource professionals' careers and should be encouraged, rather than hindered by the federal government. Thank you for recommending the removal of barriers to your employees serving as officers or on governing boards of such societies. In recent years, some federal agencies have chosen to enforce a policy that prohibits employees from serving on the boards of outside organizations under any circumstance, or have created conditions that make it virtually impossible for their employees to serve. We look forward to changes in these policies in light of your announcement.

While the Scientific Integrity Policy makes important strides in protecting the integrity of science within the Department of Interior, there is still work to be done. The policy does not address key issues, such as peer review or whistleblower protections, identified in President Obama's March 2009 memorandum regarding scientific integrity in all federal agencies. Our organizations stand ready to work with you to incorporate these, and other important topics, into future iterations of the policy or into other Department documents and procedures as appropriate.

Thank you for your strong public support for scientific integrity in the federal government. The undersigned organizations look forward to seeing the general principles elucidated in your policy translated into action at the agency level.

Sincerely,

American Fisheries Society
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society of Agronomy
Coalition of Natural Resource Societies
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
The Ornithological Council
River Management Society
Society for Applied Anthropology
Society for Conservation Biology
Society for Range Management
Society of American Foresters
Soil Science Society of America
The Wildlife Society

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