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AIBS Comments on NOAA's Draft Scientific Integrity Policy

August 19, 2011

 

On 19 August 2011, AIBS wrote to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco about the agency’s draft scientific integrity policy. The letter highlights areas of support for the NOAA policy, as well as offers recommendations to further improve the policy.

NOAA’s draft scientific integrity policy outlines goals of facilitating the free flow of scientific information; documenting the scientific knowledge considered in decision making and where feasible using information that has been independently peer reviewed; basing hiring decisions for scientific positions on the candidate’s integrity, experience, and credentials; and examining, tracking, and resolving allegations of scientific misconduct.

AIBS expressed strong support for application of the proposed policy to all employees, political appointees, and contractors who engage in, supervise, or manage scientific activities, publicly communicate science, or use scientific information in decision making. “Universal coverage is essential to ensuring that the policy is effective,” states the letter. “It is vital that decision-makers are subject to the policy, otherwise the potential exists for decision-makers to misrepresent, alter, or suppress scientific information, as has happened at other science agencies in recent years.” The policy also includes codes of conduct for scientists and for supervisors and managers.

The policy allows NOAA scientists to speak to the media and the public about scientific and technical matters. It encourages NOAA scientists to publish and disseminate scientific findings and data, including through peer-reviewed journals. The letter states: “We strongly support the policy’s encouragement of NOAA scientists to serve in the leadership of professional and scientific societies, publish their results in peer-reviewed journals, present their research at scientific meetings, actively participate in professional societies, serve on review panels, and participate in science assessment bodies.”

Several recommendations were offered to improve the procedural handbook for dealing with allegations of research misconduct, including securing evidence earlier in the investigation; referring allegations of fraud, waste, abuse, and criminal law violations to the Department of Commerce Office of the Inspector General; and providing more guidance on the information that is required to report an allegation of scientific misconduct.

To read the comments submitted by AIBS, visit http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20110819noaaintegrity.html.

For more information about NOAA’s draft scientific integrity policy, visit http://www.noaa.gov/scientificintegrity/.

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