A new report issued by the Inspector General (IG) for the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) finds that the department has failed to implement a comprehensive policy regarding scientific integrity. The IG found that DOI violated a decade old requirement from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to implement a scientific integrity policy to address scientific misconduct. “Without sound policies to protect the scientific community and general public from potentially flawed scientific research, data, and publications, Interior’s reputation and its public trust are at risk,” the report concludes.

Although DOI lacks a comprehensive department-wide policy, Interior bureaus have individually developed scientific integrity policies. The IG, however, found that only the United States Geological Survey created a comprehensive policy, as defined by OSTP. The scientific integrity policies of all other Interior agencies — Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, and Office of Surface Mining — were found to be deficient.

The 2000 memo from OSTP required the following elements in each federal department’s policy: definition of scientific misconduct; requirements for making a determination of research misconduct; responsibilities of federal agencies and research institutions to investigate and address misconduct; guidelines for fair and timely procedures; and agency administrative actions.

The IG report recommends that DOI “develop and implement an Interior-wide comprehensive scientific integrity policy that addresses required elements of the OSTP scientific misconduct policy, to include provisions for both internal and external scientific research, applicable to all agents, appointees, employees and contractors involved in researching and publishing scientific results of any kind, include a misconduct allegation reporting requirement, and a range of disciplinary actions.” The IG also recommended that DOI designate an official to guide the development of the policy and the implementation of the policy by Interior agencies.

The IG report is available at http://www.doioig.gov/upload/2010-I-0020.pdf.


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