SYMP 6-4
Creating a culture of scientific integrity at the Department of Interior

Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 9:40 AM
309, Baltimore Convention Center
Alan Thornhill, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, Reston, VA
Rick Coleman, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior
Brad Blythe, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, U.S. Department of the Interior
Background/Question/Methods: One of the most important values in science is integrity. It is the foundation of all scientific work. Without integrity, you lose cred­ibility with your colleagues and the community; your results become meaningless. When you lose cred­ibility, your value as a scientist is diminished. Think of credibility as the currency of science. Anything that undermines credibility under­mines value. What is true for an individual scientist is also true for an entity (a federal agency for example) that develops and uses science.

In his first Inaugural Address, President Obama pledged to “restore science to its rightful place” and asked his science advisor to develop a plan to restore scientific integrity to federal policy making. In response, 23 departments, agencies, commissions, and offices released scientific integrity policies designed to foster a culture of scientific integrity, promote and maximize openness and transparency, and facilitate the professional development of government scientists and engineers. Some government entities, such as the Department of Interior (DOI) and Environmental Protection Agency, developed strong policies and designated scientific integrity officers responsible for fully implementing them.

Results/Conclusions: While strong policies are necessary outputs, they are not sufficient to ensure the integrity of the scientific process and products—nor to ensure appropriate behavior of all employees. Creating a culture that expects, encourages, and supports integrity of the scientific process and products is the desired outcome. However, the desired culture will exist and persist to the extent that the employees are aware, understand and believe in the policy—and that their colleagues around them do as well.

We will discuss the various steps that DOI is taking toward this desired culture, and discuss some of the challenges we have faced in the first four years of policy implementation. Our experience has implications for individual scientists (employed by government entities or not), other agencies, as well as universities.