The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has a job listing for a Scientific Integrity Analyst (closing October 16). Given the relative lack of forward motion by the Executive Branch in this area, having an outside analyst could help nudge agencies to develop and implement the policies promised since March 2009. UCS has a whole section of its website dedicated to scientific integrity, so it make sense they would hire someone focused on that effort.
However, there are areas of emphasis for the UCS that one should have in mind when thinking of applying. First, the organization is often (some might say always) an issue advocate. UCS is pretty focused on energy and environmental issues, and may show bias in downplaying scientific integrity problems (or appearance of problems) that would run counter to its desired policies. For instance, UCS is monitoring the Obama Administration for instances of interference with science and progress on its scientific integrity goals, but it has turned a blind eye to certain situations that would reflect badly on its desired policy choices.
On a related point, UCS is really of a kind with other scientific societies, and will advocate for those scientists. Again, not a problem if done in the open. But since scientific integrity is as much about scientists as it is about those who supervise or otherwise deal with the output of their work, UCS will like focus more on those who ‘use’ science. Their public-interest oriented work suggests as much.
So, if you’re looking for a position analyzing how well or how badly scientific integrity policies are being developed, this job will get you close.
Let’s look at the posting:
“The analyst is responsible for overseeing a research program with two goals:
- to improve public understanding of how various interests (including the private sector) influence how science is used in misused in federal policymaking, and
- to develop and advance solutions that will allow public policy decisions to be fully informed by the best available scientific information.
“The analyst will monitor current events and identify issues with a scientific integrity component. He or she will conceptualize and lead long-term and short-term research projects that support the two goals listed above. This requires the analyst to develop and maintain a familiarity with a wide array of public health, environmental, and science-related topics and laws, and the legal and organizational structure of multiple government agencies over a variety of topics.”
“The analyst is responsible for ensuring that all program research products are accurate, accessible, relevant, and timely. He or she collaborates on scientific integrity policy, outreach, and advocacy initiatives with other senior program staff. The analyst represents UCS interests in relevant policy-related coalitions and workshops and presents research results and analysis and UCS policy positions to a variety of audiences, including Congress, the Obama administration, coalition partners, and the public.”
So, monitoring government progress on the Obama scientific integrity issue will play a part in the job, but just a part. Reading between the lines, it seems that there could well be a lot of work around competing notions of ‘sound science’ as applied to various policy debates. Looking at the desired qualifications reinforces this notion in my head (note what’s listed first, in a position where little to no scientific research is required):
“The position requires comprehensive knowledge of a scientific field, generally obtained through a terminal degree in a science, including the hard sciences, engineering, economics and social sciences, or a related field. The ability to analyze and write quickly for diverse audiences and to meet the needs of the current media and congressional landscape is essential.
“Candidates should possess a solid understanding of how science informs public policy and a familiarity with general public health and environmental concepts and issues.
“Robust written and oral communications abilities, strong quantitative and analytical skills, and a working knowledge of and interest in the way in which the U.S. government functions are necessary for this position.
“Most of all, candidates should possess a passion for improving the way in which science informs policy making, and a demonstrable commitment to working in the public interest/non-profit sector. The strongest candidates will have experience with science policy development and analysis and advocacy.”
I do think it’s good to see an organization committing resources to whatever is developing in the area of scientific integrity. I just think it relevant to note what aspects of scientific integrity are being examined and how the interactions of politics and science may or may not be affected.
Anyone think I should apply for the job?