President Biden calls for increased scientific integrity

U.S. President Biden issued the new memorandum, calling on federal agencies to increase their focus on scientific integrity.

He asked that all scientific and technological activities within agencies comport with principles of scientific integrity established in a 2009 Presidential Memorandum and expanded upon in a 2010 Director’s Memorandum from the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The memorandum emphasized that scientific findings should not be “distorted or influenced by political considerations.” It also stressed that the scientific information used in the policy decisions should be subject to appropriate processes, such as peer review. It continued, “Improper political interference in the work of federal scientists or other scientists who support the work of the federal government and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the trust that the public places in government to best serve its collective interests.”

The memorandum also creates a new interagency task force on scientific integrity, which will review and assesses the effects of agency scientific integrity policies developed in response to the 2009 Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity. That task force will have 120 days to conduct its review.

Last week, the president also signed an order establishing a new President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, which will consist of up to 26 members, including the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Others members can include the U.S. Chief Technology Officer and various non-federal members, appointed by the president, with “diverse perspectives and expertise in science, technology and innovation.” The Council will advise the President on policy matters that involve science and technology, as well as those that involve the scientific and technological information needed “to inform public policy relating to the economy, worker empowerment, education, energy, the environment, public health, national and homeland security, racial equity and other topics.”

A 2018 survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists of more than 63,000 scientists across federal agencies investigated topics like staff capacity, employee morale, political influence and scientific integrity, and found that scientists from various agencies reported censorship, particularly regarding climate change. While 64% of the survey respondents said the agencies generally adhere to scientific integrity policies, only 42% of respondents said they would report issues about scientific integrity and trust that it would be treated fairly.

The Wildlife Society encourages the appropriate use of wildlife, ecological and conservation science in policy determination and decision-making processes, and is committed to identifying and supporting actions to correct inappropriate uses or abuses of science.

Read TWS’ Standing Position on The Use of Science in Policy and Management Decisions

Header Image: A new presidential memorandum calls for an increased focused on scientific integrity at federal agencies. Credit: BLM Oregon & Washington