Scientific Integrity Policy FAQ

Questions that have answers below:

What does this policy give us?
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.  

Why is the policy on Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities—what's the difference? 
Scientific activities employ the scientific method for inventorying, monitoring, experimenting, studying, researching, and modeling.These activities include matters covered by any of the physical, biological, cultural, or social sciences, and may include matters such as landscape architecture, engineering, mathematics, and statistics that employ the scientific method. These activities also include scholarly activities, that are intellectual endeavors involving inventorying, monitoring, experimentation, study, research, modeling, and assessment conducted in a manner specified by standard protocols and procedures in culturally focused disciplines such as history, archeology, ethnography, architecture, and landscape architecture. Scientific activities does not include educational programs or exhibits.

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)? 
The SIO acts as ombudsman for scientific integrity concerns.  If a scientific integrity complaint is filed, the SIOs will complete a preliminary 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. During the inquiry stage, the SIO will gather documents and other evidence, conduct interviews, and obtain signed and dated witness statements or declarations from any individual with information relevant to the complaint. The SIO will also inform the subject of the allegation, in writing and allow each subject an opportunity to provide a statement and other material the subject believes is relevant to the complaint. The SIO may also request that a Scientific Integrity Review Panel (SIRP) of subject-matter experts be appointed to address specific questions posed by the SIO. SIO oversees the SIRP. Within 45 calendar days of receipt of the complaint, the SIRP will provide to the SIO a final report answering the questions posed by the SIO.  The final report may make related recommendations, including changes to policy, but the report will not recommend any specific personnel actions or other corrective measures. 

How will employees understand their responsibilities under this policy? 
In FY 15, DOI Learn will host new on-line training on Scientific Integrity, with a special emphasis on understanding the Scientific Code of Conduct, as specified in the policy.  This training may be mandatory for some DOI employees.

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, prior to service in an official capacity employees must receive an Authorization of Assignment from the Designated Agency Ethics Official or a bureau director and recusal memorandum described in the policy. New sample template letters/agreements are provided in the SIP Handbook within this SI website.

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 in the Department?
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?
The Secretary 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 supervise, manage, or influence scientific and scholarly activities, communicate information about it, 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.
What is the background and history of this DOI policy? 
Established on 28 January 2011, Department of Interior's Scientific and Scholarly Integrity Policy, was the first federal agency policy to respond to the Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity (March 9, 2009) and the guidance provided by the Office of Science and Technology Policy Memorandum on Scientific Integrity (December 17, 2010).  The DOI Scientific and Scholarly Integrity Policy at Department of Interior is part of the DOI Departmental Manual (Part 305: Chapter 3)

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. 

On August 31, 2010, the Department publicly posted a proposed draft policy on scientific integrity. They received many excellent comments that helped guild their thinking and prioritization of the many issues they were considering including in the final policy.  

The Department revised the Scientific Integrity policy on December 16, 2014, based on the first three years of implementation.