Thursday, September 30, 2010

Department of Interior issues policy on scientific integrity

The US Department of the Interior, led by Secretary Ken Salazar, has finally issued a new policy to ensure scientific integrity.  According to the "Secretary's Order," the policy is designed to "guide and ensure the integrity of science and scientific products developed and used by the [DOI] in decision making and in the creation of policy related to the conservation and responsible development of our Nation's natural resources, protecting our heritage, and honoring native cultures and tribal communities."

The policy is in line with President Obama's call last year for all agencies and departments to establish a means by which they could ensure scientific integrity.  One of the main rationales for calling for policies was the numerous accusations of suppression or manipulation of scientific data in previous administrations, most notably those regarding protection of endangered species and climate change.

While the Union of Concerned Scientists praises the DOI policy as "a great first step," the watchdog organization OMB Watch suggests it doesn't go far enough.  As the representative from UCS says,
“While this is a great framework, the real work begins now. Without specifics and a timeline, these principles will end up as just another good idea. There are many details the plan must address, including deadlines for releasing information and disclosing meetings with special interests. Interior must move quickly to put flesh on these bones."

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