Interior Department Announces Strengthened Scientific Integrity Policy for Employees and Contractors

New protections and resources for workers designed to boost effectiveness

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior today announced an updated and strengthened policy to ensure that all Interior employees and contractors uphold the principles of scientific integrity and that the Department thoroughly reviews alleged breaches of the policy while protecting workers.

In 2011, the Interior Department became the first federal agency to establish a scientific integrity policy in response to President Obama's directive on sound departmental science policies. Based on lessons learned over the past three years, updates to the Department's manual provide more clarity on the complaint and appeals process, create an ombudsmen role for the Department and bureau scientific integrity officers and provide new resources for employees.

“Science is at the heart of Interior's mission, so it's important that we continue to lead federal efforts to ensure robust scientific integrity,” said Secretary Jewell. “Today we are announcing an updated, strengthened policy to broaden, clarify and underscore our commitment to sound science and to reflect enhancements based on three years of experience with the current policy.”

“Along with the release of the revised policy, the Department is providing employees and contractors with new resources, including a new handbook and upcoming online training,” said Suzette Kimball, the Department's Chief Scientific Integrity Officer and current Acting Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. “This training is designed to enhance employees' understanding of scientific integrity in support of the Department's mission.”

Updates to the scientific integrity policy are based on the principles found in Secretarial Order 3305 and guided by the Office of Science and Technology Policy memo, issued in December of 2010. The policy applies to all Departmental employees when they engage in, supervise or manage scientific or scholarly activities; analyze and/or publicly communicate scientific or scholarly information; or use this information or analyses to make policy, management or regulatory decisions. Additionally, the policy includes provisions for contractors, partners, grantees, leasees, volunteers and others, who conduct these activities on behalf of the Department.

Updates to the Departmental Manual include:

  • Specifying that adherence to the Department's Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct is a standard in maintaining scientific integrity, a fact that will be heavily emphasized in the new online training of employees.
  • Adding an ombudsman role and other new responsibilities for the Department Scientific Integrity Officer and each Bureau's Scientific Integrity Officer. Forming an Interior Scientific and Scholarly Integrity Council to increase the interaction of the scientific integrity officers to support each other, train and review the policy.
  • Streamlining and clarifying the intent and procedures for reporting and resolving allegations while better protecting the rights of both those who are the subjects of the allegations and those making the allegations.
  • Making explicit the confidentiality of reports and of the identities of people during the course of an allegation and adding language to clarify due process for the subject of an allegation including adding a new procedure for the appeal process.

New Resources for Employees include:

  • A Scientific Integrity Procedures Handbook that provides details on the scientific integrity policy, requirements, procedures and processes. It contains the requirements and forms for filing and evaluating complaints of violations of the Department's scientific integrity policy, as well as standardized language for contracts, agreements, permits or leases involving scientific activities. The Handbook is available at:
  • A scientific integrity online training, developed collaboratively by the Federal Collaborative e-Learning Laboratory (Fed-CEL), hosted by DOI Learn. External learners (non-DOI employees) may have access to this training, with permission from a host DOI agency.

The Department's Scientific Integrity website provides additional information about the implementation of the policy, along with a current summary of the closed scientific integrity cases.

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