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Getting to Specifics on Scientific Integrity

NOAA head addresses UCS board meeting on draft SI policy

In the wake of Presidential Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren’s Dec. 17 announcement of scientific integrity guidelines for implementation of the principles laid out in President Obama’s March 2009 presidential memorandum, executive departments and agencies are busy preparing their own scientific integrity policy documents. The Department of the Interior was first out of the gate with a policy announcement on Feb. 1; other agencies are expected to follow suit in the coming months.

On Feb. 9, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), addressed a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), offering her perspective on the process of drafting a scientific integrity policy for an agency of nearly 13,000 employees as well as some thoughts about the expected contents of NOAA’s policy, currently in draft form.

Among other things, Lubchenco declared that NOAA’s scientific integrity policy would:

  • include a “Scientific Code of Conduct”;
  • encourage NOAA scientists to publish their data and to take leadership roles in their fields;
  • prohibit managers and supervisors from suppressing or altering scientific findings;
  • protect whistleblowers.

As a 2005 UCS survey showed, NOAA is one of many government agencies to feel the impact of political pressure on scientists during the past decade. Lubchenco described the task of reversing that trend as both a scientific and a civic imperative: “When we stand up for scientific integrity, we stand up for democracy.”

The public should have an opportunity to weigh in on the NOAA policy in Spring 2011. 

The full text of the address is available at NOAA’s website.

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