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Biologists Commend NOAA's New Scientific Integrity Policy

December 13, 2011

 

Policy responds to issues raised by AIBS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a policy that will promote and protect scientific integrity within the agency. The new policy has been well received by members of the scientific community.

"NOAA's comprehensive scientific integrity policy should provide a strong foundation for public trust in the agency's science," said American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) President Dr. James P. Collins. "Other federal agencies should look to NOAA's policy as a model."

The policy outlines goals for facilitating the free flow of scientific information, documenting the scientific knowledge considered in decision making, using information that has been independently peer reviewed, and hiring scientists based on the candidate's credentials and integrity. Also included in the final policy are codes of conduct for scientists and supervisors.

Notably, the agency's scientific integrity policy applies to all employees and contractors who directly engage in or supervise research, analyze or communicate scientific findings, or make decisions using science. AIBS previously expressed strong support for application of the policy to all employees, both career and political, involved in NOAA science.

"NOAA should be commended for engaging in such an open process," Collins said. "Public input and participation helped to improve the draft policy circulated for public comment last summer."

The final policy includes numerous revisions that respond to public comments. For example, the policy makes clear that all staff scientists may express their personal viewpoints about science and policy matters, holds NOAA grant recipients to the same standards of integrity as federal employees, and provides scientists with the opportunity to review and edit references to their research in official documents.

At the request of AIBS and other organizations, NOAA revised the procedural handbook that will guide investigations of alleged scientific misconduct. AIBS also called on NOAA to make clear that cases involving waste, fraud, and abuse would be referred to the Department of Commerce Inspector General.

"Scientific societies and professional organizations should be pleased with this policy," stated Collins. Importantly, the policy encourages federal scientists to participate in professional organizations, including as officers and on governing boards, and to serve on scientific advisory bodies. "NOAA now has a clear policy to guide how and when federal scientists may serve their scientific communities. This is good for the agency, for science, and for the public. Federal scientists are often leaders in their fields. Science benefits when they are able to fully participate in their professional communities," stated Collins.

NOAA developed the scientific integrity policy in response to an Executive Order issued by President Obama in 2009.

AIBS comments on the draft NOAA scientific integrity policy are available online at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20110819noaaintegrity.html.

A letter from AIBS to NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco regarding the agency's final scientific integrity policy is available at http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20111213noaaintegrity.html.

The NOAA scientific integrity policy is available at http://nrc.noaa.gov/scientificintegrity.html.

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