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For Immediate Release Hugh Vickery
May 30, 2003 202-501-4633

(WASHINGTON) -- Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton today announced the development of a code of scientific conduct for the Interior Department - independently reviewed and approved by a panel of leading scientists and ethicists - to help ensure the integrity of all scientific work done by its employees and contractors.

"The scientific code of conduct will help ensure the American people that the research and analysis we use has been conducted according to the highest standards of the scientific community," Norton said.

The department developed the code in accordance with a new federal policy on conduct of science published on December 6, 2000, by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

In addition, the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General recommended the department develop a scientific code of conduct in its report on its investigation of the submission of unauthorized samples to a laboratory during population surveys for the Canada lynx in 1999 and 2000.

The code is being developed through a unique process involving both peer review by an independent panel and employee involvement. The code will be a new addition to the Department Manual, and this will be the first time employees have had a chance to comment on a change to the manual.

"We want the new code of conduct to be fully embraced by Interior scientists as an accurate statement of their ideals," Norton said. "We will fully involve employees in active discussion to ensure this reflects their professional standards."
In addition to the employee comment process, there will also be an opportunity for public comment on a similar code being prepared for consultants and contractors to the department. Their code will go through the ordinary administrative rulemaking process. Dates for public comment will be announced later.

The code is similar to the codes of conduct of many scientific organizations, including the Wildlife Society, American Fisheries Society, and Ecological Society of America, to which many department scientists belong. All of the scientific activities conducted or funded by the Department are covered by this definition. These involve inventory, monitoring, study, research, adaptive management or assessments that are conducted in a manner specified by standard protocols and procedures.
"It is vitally important that any organization that does as much scientific research and analysis as the Interior Department have a well-founded code of scientific conduct that governs the full range of scientific activities," said Dr. Deborah Brosnan, president of the nonprofit Sustainable Ecosystems Institute and head of the independent review panel. "Our panel felt that this was a strong code that meets three key goals of building trust between science and the public, giving guidance, and providing support for scientists."

The panel also included: Ann Bartuska, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's Invasive Species Initiative and current president of the Ecological Society of America; Baird Callicott, professor of environmental ethics at the University of North Texas; Barry D. Gold, program officer for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Carol Boggs, director of the Center for Conservation Biology; and Jim Reichman, director of the National Center For Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.
Under the new federal policy, scientific misconduct includes both professional misconduct and research misconduct. Research misconduct is defined as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.

Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.

Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person's ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.

Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

Any allegations brought under the code will be handled in accordance with departmental personnel policies and with the department's Handbook on Charges and Penalty Selection for Disciplinary and Adverse Actions as a guide. The new federal policy includes safeguards for subjects of allegations, including timeliness, objectivity and confidentiality.
The Interior Department has established a website ( that contains the existing agency directives pertaining to policies and conduct.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics also has a website ( where it has published the Standards for Ethical Conduct of Employees of the Executive Branch.
Here is the proposed code:


To the best of my ability:

I will act in the interest of the advancement of science and contribute the best, highest quality scientific information for the Department of the Interior.

I will conduct, manage, judge, report, and communicate scientific activities and information honestly, thoroughly and without conflict of interest.

I will be responsible for the resources entrusted to me, including equipment, employees' time, and funds. I will be accountable for the prompt and accurate collection, use, and reporting of all financial resources and transactions under my control.
I will disclose the research methods to the local communities, Indian tribes, and other individuals whose interest and resource uses are studied; and respect the confidential and proprietary information provided by those individuals to the fullest extent permitted by law.

I will neither hinder the scientific and information gathering activities of others nor engage in dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, or other scientific, research or professional misconduct.

I will welcome constructive criticism of my scientific activities and information, participate in appropriate peer reviews, and critique others' work in a respectful manner amid objective scientific review.

I will be diligent in the creation, use, preservation, and maintenance of collections and data records; adhere to established quality assurance and quality control programs; follow the records retention policies of the Department; and comply with Federal law and established agreements related to the use, security, and release of confidential and proprietary data.

I will know, understand and adhere to standards of public information dissemination and the formal publication of scientific information and respect the intellectual property rights of others.

I will be responsible in all scientific activities for both the collection and interpretation of data I collect and the integrity of conclusions I present.

I will place quality and objectivity of scientific activities and information ahead of personal gain or allegiance to individuals or organizations.