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White House moves to strengthen scientific integrity

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In recent years, many instances of politics colliding with science – the suppression of research findings, for instance – have come to light. To protect government scientists from political backlash and influence, the Biden Administration released the Framework for Strengthening Federal Scientific Integrity Policies and Practices in January.  

As with many other important developments over the past half century, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows (STPF) and alumni have had a hand in the development and release of the framework. STPF alum Sarah Burgess-Herbert (2009-10 fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency; 2010-11 at NASA), Ryan Donohue (2020-21 fellow at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy), and Francesca Grifo (1990-91 fellow at U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID) were instrumental in its development.  

Several current STPF fellows are carrying forward the framework policy by actively supporting the updating of scientific integrity policies and practices at federal agencies, including*: 

  • Miriam Akeju at the National Institutes of Health 
  • Rebecca Barnes at the National Science Foundation
  • Aiste Degesys at the US Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Rachel Golden Kroner at USAID
  • William Singer at the Department of Agriculture

*This is not necessarily an exhaustive list of all current or alumni fellows working on the topic of scientific integrity.

The 2021 Presidential memo, “Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking,” required the formation of an interagency task force of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to produce a report to conduct a review of the effectiveness of scientific integrity policies developed since 2009 by federal agencies. That report was published in January 2022. It also called for the creation of a Framework to translate what was learned in the report into guidance for federal agencies in updating or creating new scientific integrity policies.  

“The actions federal agencies will take to respond to this framework will help to prevent future inappropriate influence and political interference,” said Grifo, co-chair of the NSTC interagency group that wrote both report and the framework. She started working on this issue while at the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2005 and continued those efforts as the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Integrity Official since 2013. 

“The challenge and the strength of this was to unite very diverse agencies under the scientific integrity umbrella. Whether an agency does research or regulates, or is primarily intramural or extramural, they will now be required to meet these standards as they write or rewrite their scientific integrity policies as well as when they implement them. It has been amazing to co-lead this initiative that included hundreds of talented staff from across the executive branch!”


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