Scientific Integrity Policy FAQ



What does this policy give us that we don't already have?
Scientific and scholarly information considered in Departmental decision making must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved. This policy codifies that requirement and reaffirms our commitment maintaining integrity in Department scientific and scholarly activities. In addition, the policy addresses the broad issue of scientific and scholarly activity and among other things, provides specific codes of conduct for employees, scientists and scholars, and decision makers at the Department. Further, the policy provides clear guidance for federal employees who wish to engage with the communities of practice represented by professional societies. Finally, before this policy the only option for dealing with any potential loss of scientific and scholarly integrity issue was through the IG. This policy provides a way for bureaus and the agency to handle scientific and scholarly issues that fall short of the fraud, waste and abuse, or criminal law violations, that are the purview of the IG but that nevertheless may have a corrosive effect on our reputation with the American people, or undermine our ability to effectively conduct the business of the agency. 
Why is the policy on Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities—what's the difference? 
Maintaining the integrity of the scientific process and products is essential. Scholarly activities include such things as developing reviews of scientific papers and don't necessarily follow the scientific process; nevertheless, there are standard, accepted practices for developing scholarly works that help to ensure quality products. 
Whom does the policy cover? 
The policy covers all Department employees, including political appointees, when they engage in, supervise, manage, or influence scientific and scholarly activities, or communicate information about the Department's scientific and scholarly activities, or utilize scientific and scholarly information in making agency policy, management or regulatory decisions. The policy also covers all volunteers, contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, leasees, and grantees who assist with developing or applying the results of scientific and scholarly activities. 
What is the role of the Scientific Integrity Officers (SIOs)? 
SIOs will do the initial review of allegations to evaluate the timing, content and reasonableness of the allegation to determine if the allegation should be dismissed or should proceed to the inquiry stage. SIO may determine that Scientific Misconduct Review Panel (SMRP) of subject area experts needs to be assembled for initial fact finding. SIO oversees the SMRP. The SMRP compiles and analyzes the factual record to determine the scope and impact of the alleged misconduct. The SMRP prepares a summary review with findings. At any time, the SIO or SMRP may refer the matter to the Inspector General (IG) if appropriate.
How will employees understand their responsibilities under this policy? 
The policy writing team is currently working with the Office of Strategic Employee and Organizational Development to create a training program to educate employees about this policy. 
Are Interior scientists going to be able to participate in professional scientific societies? 
The Department encourages the enhancement of scientific and scholarly integrity through engagement with the communities of practice represented by professional societies. The Department encourages employees to participate in outside professional organizations in order to enhance their professional development, especially when that participation advances the Department's mission, programs, and operations. This policy reinforces these principles. An employee's service as an officer or as a member on the board of directors (or in any position that creates a fiduciary duty under State or other applicable law) of a non-Federal organization may create an actual or apparent conflict of interest or may affect the employee's ability to act impartially. Therefore, employees wishing to serve in an official capacity that creates a fiduciary duty are required to complete, prior to serving in such a role, the waiver, memorandum of understanding (MOU), and recusal memorandum described in the policy. Employees serving in their official capacity on advisory committees, working groups, or other positions that do not create a fiduciary duty to a non-Federal organization must comply with all applicable ethics statutes and regulations during the period of their service, but there are no additional process requirements required by this policy. 
How does this document relate to the draft policy that was posted to the Federal Register and the Secretarial Order in 2010? 
On August 31, 2010, the Department publicly posted a proposed draft policy on scientific integrity. We received many excellent comments that helped guild our thinking and prioritization of the many issues we were considering including in the final policy. The Secretary issued Order No. 3305, Ensuring Scientific Integrity within the Department of the Interior, on September 29, 2010, directing the establishment of a Departmental Manual Chapter that sets forth principles of scientific and scholarly integrity and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of all Department employees in upholding these principles. This policy is the codification, into the Department Manual, of the principles that the Secretary set forth. 
Under what circumstances are scientists forbidden from speaking with the media?
Scientists are not forbidden from speaking to the media. Scientists must clearly identify when they are speaking on behalf of the agency they work for or when they are speaking as a private citizen. The Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities Policy addresses science integrity and in no way prohibits or hampers communications or publication in peer reviewed journals. The Departmental policy on communications is available.
How will the new scientific integrity policy, and adviser, help achieve the science mission over the next five years?
The new Department Scientific Integrity Officer, working with Bureau Scientific Integrity Officers, will provide guidance, advice, and oversight for the scientific integrity policy. By ensuring a positive culture of scientific integrity, the new policy and officers will help in encouraging and maintaining an environment of rigorous and honest investigation, open discussion, and constructive peer review, free of political influence that is needed for good science to thrive. 
How do you see the new policies affecting work at DOI? What do you see as the biggest change that will come out of these rules?
Secretary Salazar has repeatedly stressed the important role that science plays in decision making at Interior. This policy affirms the Secretary's commitment—here's just a couple of that: 
  1. By helping to ensure a positive culture of scientific integrity, we are maintaining and encouraging an environment of rigorous and honest investigation, open discussion, and constructive peer review, free of political influence that is needed for good science to thrive. This policy encourages an environment where science can thrive and can effectively support decision making.
  2. Having a scientist designated as Scientific Integrity Officers in each bureau and for the department will give everyone a point of contact to bring concerns or issues – engenders trust and openness. It gives us a proactive way to handle any issues that come up—perceived or real.
  3. Make standards for handling science and scholarship very clear by providing specific codes of conduct for employees, scientists and scholars, and decision makers at the Department.
  4. Interior science must be robust and trustworthy and all employees in the Department as well as the people and institutions we work with support and contribute to that goal. The Policy sets clear expectations for all people—including external contractors, grantees, etc who
    1. supervise, manage, or influence scientific and scholarly activities
    2. communicate information about it
    3. utilize it in making agency policy, management or regulatory decisions.
  5. The policy removes any ambiguity about how federal employees can engage with the communities of practice represented by professional societies.