Finally, a Deadline for Scientific Integrity Policies
by Gavin Baker, 5/5/2011
Today, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced that it was asking agencies to submit their draft scientific integrity policies within 90 days.
Although the announcement doesn't include a deadline to finalize the policies and begin implementation, with luck the new policies could be in place later this year. The new policies should further protect federal science from interference, ensuring that government decisions are based on sound science and improving public trust.
Unfortunately, the announcement doesn't address the question of public consultation. Before finalizing their policies, agencies should publish their proposed policies for public comment.
The announcement is the light at the end of what has been a long tunnel. In March 2009, President Obama explained his principles for protecting scientific integrity in a memo to agencies. After considerable delay, OSTP followed up with guidelines in December 2010. Those guidelines asked for progress reports from agencies, which were delivered two weeks ago. Today's announcement is the first deadline for agencies to begin putting the OSTP guidelines into practice.
What will the new policies look like? We can find some clues from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which have posted their progress reports online. Hopefully, more agencies will follow suit and post their reports online as well.