White House panel outlines new scientific integrity policies - and draws scrutiny

  • In Politics
  • 2022-01-13 17:32:18Z
  • By Axios

The Biden administration's push to bolster scientific integrity policies across federal agencies yielded its first report this week, but a co-chair of the report's panel is facing her own questions from the scientific community about a recent research integrity ethics breach.

Why it matters: The report could help address political interference or other methods of undermining science used to draw public health, environmental and technology policies.

Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.

Key takeaways: The first report from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy calls for strengthening existing agency policies that protect federal science from suppression, manipulation and influence, including from politicians.

  • It also recommends creating an interagency body to implement the policies across the board and help sort out political interference - especially by senior-level officials who can be insulated from their own agencies.

  • The authors outlined a need for policies to cover citizen science as well as AI and other emerging technologies.

  • The report explicitly doesn't define scientific integrity, but it suggests that a standard definition for the federal government could be useful and outlines how it could encompass research integrity.

"It is a great first step that lays the groundwork for bolstering scientific integrity," says Jacob Carter, who researches scientific integrity at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He highlighted the authors' call to train all employees, contractors, grantees and political appointees - not just scientists.

  • But the report doesn't specify how violators should be held accountable and how those consequences would be enforced, Carter says.

The panel is facing one uncomfortable scientific integrity issue of its own. A co-chair of the White House's Scientific Integrity Task Force, noted marine scientist Jane Lubchenco, is facing criticism for her role in a research paper retracted last year.

  • Before she took up her current post as OSTP's first-ever deputy director of climate and environment, Lubchenco edited a research paper published in the prestigious scientific journal PNAS.

  • The paper on marine protected areas was retracted from the journal in October 2021 because the data underlying the analysis was not the most up to date and for violating conflict of interest policies.

  • Lubchenco has a personal relationship with one of the authors (her brother-in-law) and collaborated with the authors on related research, "both of which are disallowed" by the journal's editorial policies, PNAS stated in its retraction statement.

What they're saying: Researchers have criticized the research and pointed out the significance of the retraction while noting that Lubchenco is currently in a White House role. Roger Pielke Jr., a science policy researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, went so far as to write that her task force leadership should be reconsidered.

  • Violations happen, and this one isn't "earth-shattering," he told Axios.

  • But Lubchenco's role in leading the Biden administration's efforts on scientific integrity sends the message that they "don't expect to be held accountable on this."

  • "The issues that PNAS had with peer review of that paper and her role in it are explicitly singled out as matters of scientific integrity in this report," Pielke said.

  • An OSTP official tells Axios Lubchenco agreed the paper should be retracted. "But this task force report ... clearly addresses situations where there's a close personal or professional relationship with a peer reviewer. So there's no evidence that Jane's work with the task force resulted in any pulled punch on the topic."

The backstory: The Bush and Obama administrations implemented some guidelines on scientific integrity policies, but many agencies still lack them and they vary across the agencies.

  • The Trump administration ran roughshod over the integrity policies that were in place. For example, Trump famously altered, using a black Sharpie, a forecast map of the path of Hurricane Dorian in 2019, inaccurately saying it threatened the state of Alabama.

  • When President Biden took office last year, he issued a memorandum calling for a task force to review scientific integrity policies across federal agencies and to make recommendations to strengthen the policies.

What to watch: Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) introduced a scientific integrity bill in Congress last year. The bill, which has 178 co-sponsors (all but one of whom are Democrats), calls for standardizing policies across agencies.

  • Supporters of the legislation, including Pielke, say it is the most effective way to protect federal science and scientists from political interference.


More Related News

As Biden makes his first presidential trip to Asia, war in Europe looms large
As Biden makes his first presidential trip to Asia, war in Europe looms large

President Joe Biden on Friday begins his first trip to Asia since he took office amid some of his lowest domestic approval numbers as he looks to make...

Biden Weighs Meeting With Saudi De Facto Ruler in Sign of Thaw
Biden Weighs Meeting With Saudi De Facto Ruler in Sign of Thaw

(Bloomberg) -- US President Joe Biden is weighing a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman as soon as next month, according to people familiar with ...

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby moving to White House
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby moving to White House
  • World
  • 2022-05-20 00:31:48Z

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby is joining the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter, adding star power to the President Joe...

OnPolitics: House Dems introduce $28 million package to fix baby formula shortage
OnPolitics: House Dems introduce $28 million package to fix baby formula shortage

In addition to Congress' spending bill, Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to speed production of baby formula.

Why Russia
Why Russia's war in Ukraine complicates President Biden's first trip to Asia

When President Biden travels to South Korea and Japan, he will face a slew of challenges related to Russia's war a continent away in Ukraine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Politics