With food, agriculture, and natural resources at the center of many of the biggest challenges we face today, nothing is more critical than making sure our agricultural system is based on sound science. As USDA’s Chief Scientist one of my responsibilities is making sure our Department’s research system maintains the highest standards of what is known as “scientific integrity.” Scientific integrity includes making sure that scientific research proceeds free of outside influence or coercion, and that scientific findings are not suppressed or altered.
I am pleased to say that Secretary Vilsack has recently released a policy on scientific integrity, and charged me to implement it across the Department. This policy follows directly from the guidance provided by President Obama and the further guidance from Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
The policy directs everyone at USDA – career employees, political appointees, and contractors who are involved in developing or applying science – on the proper conduct and use of science.
The elements of the USDA policy include:
- promoting a culture of scientific integrity;
- utilizing information based on well-established scientific processes, including peer review;
- reflecting scientific information appropriately and accurately in regulatory actions;
- making scientific findings public;
- establishing mechanisms to resolve disputes involving scientific processes and integrity;
- protection for “whistleblowers”
- policies for Federal Advisory Committees that give scientific advice;
- communications by scientists with the media; and
- professional development of scientists and engineers.
We will be working over the coming months to implement this policy by developing a Departmental Regulation and training for all affected employees, so that everyone understands the policy and has all of the knowledge that they need to comply.
I invite your comments on the policy, posted here, which we will take into account in developing the Departmental Regulation and training. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 31, 2011. Those with limited computer access can call 202-720-3444 to request a copy of the policy and instructions for returning written comments via mail.