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July 14, 2023

White House OSTP Publishes Scientific Integrity Policy

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On June 22, 2023, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) published its Scientific Integrity Policy, which was adopted on May 17, 2023. The purpose of the policy “is to provide instruction and guidance to enhance and promote a continuing culture of scientific integrity” at OSTP. The policy aims to ensure the integrity of all aspects of OSTP scientific activities and establishes the expectations and procedures required to maintain scientific integrity at OSTP.
Drawing from the National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) 2023 A Framework for Federal Scientific Integrity Policy and Practice, the 2021 Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking, and the 2009 Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity, the policy states that OSTP will be guided by the following principles:

  • Qualified Leadership: Science and technology positions in the executive branch should be filled by candidates with appropriate experience and expertise;
  • Policy Implementation: OSTP will implement, and support agencies’ efforts to implement, rules to ensure the integrity of agency scientific process;
  • Peer Review: Research that informs OSTP decisions should be subject to peer review when appropriate;
  • Public Access: Barring restrictions, scientific or technological findings that inform policy decisions should be available to the public:
  • Investigation: OSTP will address instances in its activities in which the integrity of scientific and technological processes and information may be compromised;
  • Science-Informed Decisions: OSTP will adopt procedures that ensure the integrity of scientific and technological processes and information used to inform decision-making;
  • Dissent: Science benefits from dissent within the scientific community to sharpen ideas and thinking. Scientists’ ability to voice freely the legitimate disagreement that improves science should not be constrained;
  • Whole of Government: Because evidence-based policymaking happens across government, scientific integrity policies should apply not only to “science agencies,” but to all federal agencies and departments engaged in the production, analysis, communication, and use of evidence, science, and technology. These policies must also apply to all staff, including career employees, contractors, and political appointees;
  • Science at the Policy Table: For science to inform policy and management decisions, it needs to be understood and actively considered during decision-making. This requires having scientists participate actively in policy-making;
  • Transparency in Sharing Science: Transparency underpins the robust generation of knowledge and promotes accountability to the American public. Federal scientists should be able to speak freely, if they wish, about their unclassified research, including to members of the press;
  • Accountability: Violations of scientific integrity should be taken as seriously as violations of government ethics, with comparable consequences;
  • Safe and Inclusive Workplaces: Identity-based and other forms of harassment, discrimination and bias, unsafe work environments, and other issues related to improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in federal science intersects with issues of scientific integrity. These factors must be considered in scientific integrity practices, along with efforts to ensure that scientific integrity practices support the equitable delivery of the federal government’s programs;
  • Responsiveness to New Technologies: Scientific integrity policies and practices must evolve as the federal government develops and uses new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, to provide for efficacy, accountability, and equity in the specific context of use; and
  • Inclusion of Other Modes of Science: Other modes of producing scientific knowledge, such as citizen science, community-engaged research, and crowdsourcing, have the recognition, support, and resources to meet the same high standards of scientific integrity that traditional modes are expected to uphold. Further, scientific integrity practices must be applied in ways that are inclusive of these other modes of science. This may necessitate expanded scientific integrity practices and expectations, such as granting communities more autonomy over research questions, respect for data and knowledge sovereignty, elevation of qualitative data gathering, and inclusion of multiple forms of evidence, such as Indigenous Knowledge.