Another Reason for A Government-Wide Scientific Integrity Policy

As I’ve complained elsewhere, one of the problems with the Obama Administration’s scientific integrity effort is that there appears to be no government-wide policy.  That is, individual agencies are the sole authorities on how to manage issues involving scientific integrity of their employees (scientists and non-scientists alike).  Even the policy from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (should they manage to finish it) will focus on that agency’s work, and not how the government as a whole would administer things.  Granted, the Executive Order that started everything off does not fill that void.

This story, of a letter sent from Congressional Republicans to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (H/T NEWSciencePolicy), suffers from a couple of issues.  There is a habeas corpus issue – most reporting of the letter fails to provide a link or any text.   There is also a lack of reporting from other sources.  Perhaps that’s a result of the first issue, or it could be a general lack of interest in science issues.

However, the issues presented – concerns over how the Administration is using (or not using) scientific and technical information – are smack in the middle of what could be considered scientific integrity problems.  Now, these claims may be overblown, and the reporting suggests this is another exercise in the rhetoric of “sound science.”  But they should at least go through a process to be officially received, and then considered and/or rejected on the merits.  No such process exists, especially when the cited issues are from different agencies.

On a different front, the lack of publicity on this letter strikes me as similar to the lack of follow-through from Republican leadership on other science fronts.  The YouCut targeting of NSF and Senator Coburn’s sloppy analysis of NSF work.  Dr. Holdren will get some stern questioning the next time he appears before Congress, but that will probably be it.  But the silence on this – from both sides of the partisan aisle (no, Mooney hasn’t said a thing about it) – reminds me that scientific issues continue to be a political afterthought.