WASHINGTON (Nov. 25, 2013)—Francesca Grifo, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), has joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as its new scientific integrity official, the agency announced today.
“Dr. Grifo has been in the vanguard of scientific integrity reform,” said Kathleen Rest, UCS’ executive director. “This position offers a huge opportunity to help one of our largest science agencies stay ahead of the curve on this issue. Science plays such a critical role in protecting public health and the environment, and there are few who appreciate that as much as Dr. Grifo.”
According to a UCS analysis Grifo led, the EPA has one of the strongest scientific integrity policies among federal agencies and departments. Such policies, when fully implemented, can help scientists speak freely and ensure transparency in how science is used to inform policymaking. Policies are particularly important at agencies such as EPA, which face significant scrutiny and political pressure.
In 2004, after widespread reports of political interference in federal science, UCS organized a statement from 62 preeminent scientists—including Nobel laureates and former presidential science advisors to both parties—calling for a restoration of scientific integrity in policymaking. The statement was ultimately signed by nearly 15,000 scientists nationwide Grifo and her colleagues documented the pervasiveness of the problem, developed solutions, and successfully organized the scientific community to push for reform.
When President Obama took office, he pledged to “restore science to its rightful place” in federal policy, and issued an executive order requiring federal science agencies to develop new scientific integrity policies. Some agencies are now implementing those policies.
“We’ve come a long way on scientific integrity, but we still hear from federal scientists who face barriers in communicating their research and analysis,” said UCS’ Michael Halpern, who worked with Dr. Grifo for more than eight years on scientific integrity issues. “I expect Dr. Grifo to continue to be a driving force in protecting federal scientists from inappropriate interference in their work, not just at EPA but at other agencies that can benefit from its leadership.”
Halpern has written a blog post on how scientific integrity issues have evolved over the past few years and the next steps agencies and the White House should take to strengthen the culture of scientific integrity within the federal government.
Grifo is the third UCS staffer the administration has tapped for prominent federal posts in recent months. In June, UCS President Kevin Knobloch took a new job as chief of staff to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. In May, senior engineer and deputy director of the UCS Clean Vehicles program David Friedman was appointed deputy administrator at the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.