by Judith Curry
Over the past week, there have been several notable events on the “Hill” of relevance to U.S. science policy, addressing issues of concern related to the integrity of science. In a word, Bravo!
Scientific Integrity Directive
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released guidelines from Director John Holdren on Friday aimed at ensuring and promoting scientific integrity (read the whole thing, its only 4 pages). The political back story on this is described by the NYTimes.
The memorandum is issued to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies to provide guidance for implementing the Administration’s polices on scientific integrity. Holdren’s memorandum requires agency leaders to report their progress toward completing those rules within 120 days. Here are some important quotes from Holdren’s memo:
Scientific and technological information is often a significant contributor to the development of sound policies. Thus it is important that policymakers involve science and technology experts where appropriate and that the scientific and technological information and processes relied upon in policymaking be of the highest integrity. Successful application of science in public policy depends on the integrity of the scientific process both to ensure the validity of the information itself . . .
[S]cience, and public trust in science, thrives in an environment that shields scientific data and analyses from inappropriate political influence; political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings.
Of particular relevance to the climate issue, the directive states:
- Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings.
- Strengthen the actual and perceived credibility of Government research. Of particular importance are: a) ensuring that selection of candidates for scientific positions in the executive branch is based primarily on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity, b) ensuring that data and research used to support policy decisions undergo independent peer review by qualified experts . . . c) setting clear standards governing conflicts of interest, and, d) adopting appropriate whistleblower protections.
- Consistent with the Administration’s Open Government Initiative, agencies should expand and promote access to scientific and technological information by making it available online in open formats. Where appropriate, this should include data and models underlying regulatory proposals and policy decisions.
- Agencies should communicate scientific and technological findings by including a clear explication of underlying assumptions; accurate contextualization of uncertainties; and a description of the probabilities associated with both optimistic and pessimistic projections, including best-case and worst-case scenarios where appropriate.
For more information and other perspectives, see:
- President Barack Obama’s memo, 9 March 2009
- Eos article on the new scientific integrity policies, 21 December 2010
- Eos interview with OSTP Director John Holdren, 21 December 2010
- Mike McPhaden (AGU President)
- Roger Pielke Jr
- Chris Mooney
Congress passes America COMPETES Act
Legislation that reauthorizes the America COMPETES Act of 2007 has been sent to President Obama for his signature. The best known aspect of this legislation is increased funding for NSF, NIST, and DOE Science. The bill aims to boost the international competitiveness of the U.S. in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
One little known but nevertheless very important component of the American COMPETES Act is the statutory requirement for Responsible Conduct of Research for NSF and NIH. The Statutory Requirement for NSF is:
“The Director shall require that each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project.”
See NSF’s web page for details on how they are implementing this requirement. At Georgia Tech, we are already working on implementing training programs for students, which will be mandatory for all students starting Fall 2011.
Sensenbrenner to serve as Vice Chairman of House Science Committee
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), a noted climate change skeptic, is incoming Vice Chairman of the House Science & Technology Committee. Rep. Sensenbrenner will lead investigations and oversight into global warming science. The incoming Chairman, Ralph Hall (R-TX) said this about Sensenbrenner, “With his background, his insistence, he can do the mean things that we don’t want to do. I’m a peaceful guy; he likes combat.” The folks at WUWT seem quite gleeful at this prospect. On the other hand, Mike Mann can’t be too happy about this, he warned of this possibility in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Dare we hope for anything sensible to come of this?