Three years after implementing a scientific integrity policy, the Department of the Interior is overhauling the policy. The department touts that the changes will create a new role of ombudsman, form an Interior Scientific and Scholarly Integrity Council, provide more clarity on the complaint and appeals process, and offer more employee training.

Secretary Sally Jewell released a statement on 17 December that stated “Science is at the heart of Interior’s mission, so it’s important that we continue to lead federal efforts to ensure robust scientific integrity. Today we are announcing an updated, strengthened policy to broaden, clarify and underscore our commitment to sound science and to reflect enhancements based on three years of experience with the current policy.”

Public reaction to the new policy is mixed. The Union of Concerned Scientists said the changes bring Interior “once again to the front of the pack in the Obama administration’s quest to create strong scientific integrity standards within federal agencies and departments.”

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) claims that the revisions are actually a weakening of the current policy. The changes “narrow the scope of the rules, erect barriers against holding miscreant managers accountable and enshroud scientific integrity reviews in secrecy, preventing independent analysis of the facts,” the organization said in a statement.

Among the changes PEER objects to are the definitions of ‘scientific misconduct’ and ‘loss of scientific integrity,’ and the removal of language that stated that employees are responsible for reporting scientific misconduct.


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