Interior Does About-face on Scientific Integrity

by Gavin Baker, 10/1/2010

This week, the Interior Department released a new policy to protect scientific integrity in the department. OMB Watch joined other public interest groups in submitting comments on the department's draft policy in September. The new policy attempts to address concerns, raised in those comments and others, that the draft policy did not go far enough to prevent abuses of the department's scientific activities and decision making.

Seal of the U.S. Department of the Interior

The new policy, released as an order of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, drops many of the specifics of the draft policy. Instead, it establishes principles designed to be consistent with President Obama's 2009 scientific integrity memo. The particulars of the policy will be detailed in a future addition to the department's employee manual, as well as guidance and implementation plans developed by Interior bureaus and offices.

The new policy was praised by public interest groups including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who had criticized the earlier draft.

Interestingly, the new policy mentions that government-wide guidance on scientific integrity is "expected" in 2010 from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. That guidance, ordered in 2009 as part of the president's memo, is now more than a year overdue. Interior's statement suggests the guidance may finally be released before the end of this year.

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