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Public Policy Report for 1/2/2001

  • Final uniform federal policy on research misconduct announced
  • Link between science and math education and the economy questioned
  • Neal Lane to go to Texas

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY RELEASES FINAL UNIFORM FEDERAL POLICY ON RESEARCH MISCONDUCT - On 6 December 2000, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued the final, government-wide policy addressing research misconduct. The policy, developed by the National Science and Technology Council, defines research misconduct and establishes basic guidelines for the conduct of fair and timely investigations of alleged or suspected infractions. The policy will apply to federally-funded research regardless of where the research is conducted or by whom.

The proposed policy was published for public comment on 14 October 1999. AIBS was among 237 organizations submitting comments on various aspects of the policy. Although AIBS supported the development of a uniform policy, the proposed policy lacked the most basic procedural safeguards to assure that accused researchers would receive fair hearings in a timely manner. The comments submitted by AIBS suggested that OSTP include provisions for fundamental rights such as representation by counsel in all phases of the proceeding and the ability to confront and examine all evidence, including witnesses. AIBS also suggested that the policy include: a time limit for the filing of allegations; a bar on multiple, simultaneous proceedings; a ban on comments to the media and others not involved in the proceeding; and sanctions for false allegations.

The final policy does not incorporate any of these suggestions. Instead, the researcher has little or no procedural safeguards under the vague and anemic language of the final policy, which provides:

- Safeguards for Subjects of Allegations. Safeguards for subjects give individuals the confidence that their rights are protected and that the mere filing of an allegation of research misconduct against them will not bring their research to a halt or be the basis for other disciplinary or adverse action absent other compelling reasons. Other safeguards include timely written notification of subjects regarding substantive allegations made against them; a description of all such allegations; reasonable access to the data and other evidence supporting the allegations; and the opportunity to respond to allegations, the supporting evidence and the proposed findings of research misconduct (if any).

- Objectivity and Expertise. The selection of individuals to review allegations and conduct investigations who have appropriate expertise and have no unresolved conflicts of interests help to ensure fairness throughout all phases of the process.

- Timeliness. Reasonable time limits for the conduct of the inquiry, investigation, adjudication, and appeal phases (if any), with allowances for extensions where appropriate, provide confidence that the process will be well managed.

- Confidentiality During the Inquiry, Investigation, and Decision-Making Processes. To the extent possible consistent with a fair and thorough investigation and as allowed by law, knowledge about the identity of subjects and informants is limited to those who need to know. Records maintained by the agency during the course of responding to an allegation of research misconduct are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act to the extent permitted by law and regulation.

Agencies will have one year to implement this policy. The full text can be found at http://www.ostp.gov/html/misconduct.html.

LINK BETWEEN SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION AND THE ECONOMY QUESTIONED - A Stanford University professor of education challenges the notion that the apparent weakness of U.S. students in science and math is a threat to the economy or national security. In a December 26 Washington Post article, Larry Cuban avers that claims of business leaders, politicians, and educators over the past 20 years are not supported by the evidence. Noting that the economy has gone up and down during that time and that the past eight years have seen steady and often phenomenal growth Cuban disputes the link between science and math education and the economy. He is not alone.David Baltimore, Nobel Prize winner and president of the California Institute of Technology, also wonders about the disconnect between the U.S. economy and the failings of the public education system. He suggests that the answer may be that while the mass of students remain poorly education in science and technology, some receive an outstanding education. John N. Yochelson, president of the Council on Competitiveness, acknowledged that the economy does not seem to be suffering from the two decades of poor science and math performance by U.S. students. He pointed to a direct cost of inadequate K-12 education the need for remedial classes in the two- and four-year colleges. Cuban is also known for challenging the usefulness of computers as teaching tools in the classroom.

NEAL LANE TO GO TO TEXAS - The White House December 15 announced that science adviser Neal Lane will return to Rice University when the next administration takes over in January. Lane will become University Professor in Rice's Department of Physics and Astronomy, a special appointment entitling him to teach in any department in the university. The White House said Lane also plans to work with the Clinton Library to help chronicle the Clinton administration's science and technology record.


 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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