Interior Makes Big Stride on Scientific Integrity

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Email: info@peer.org

Interior Makes Big Stride on Scientific Integrity

Secretary Salazar's Order Could Be Transformative

WASHINGTON - The Secretary of Interior today issued a far-reaching order that may
significantly improve the transparency, reliability and verifiability of
its scientific and technical work, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  Interior's action will likely have
government-wide influence on the Obama administration's struggling
effort to craft a new system of scientific integrity safeguards.

Today Interior Secretary Ken Salazar issued a "secretarial
order" which immediately becomes official policy.  This order represents
a dramatic break from the agency's checkered past and contains sweeping
new mandates, including -

  • A ban on political appointees rewriting or altering scientific documents;
  • Transparency that allows changes in technical documents to be tracked; and
  • Whistleblower protection for scientists who report manipulation of technical reports.

These and other changes in the Salazar order now must be reduced
into specific procedural steps for inclusion in the departmental manual
and incorporation into guidance for individual Interior agencies, such
as the National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of
Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey and the
successors to the former Minerals Management Service.

"We congratulate Secretary Salazar for taking a major step
forward in protecting both the integrity of government science and its
scientists," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who has been on
of Interior's harshest critics on this topic.  "There are still a lot of
details to be worked out but if agency rules reflect the spirit of this
order, then government science will be much more transparent and
trustworthy."

Major elements of Secretary Salazar's order reflect steps long
advocated by PEER and other reform groups, including clear rules
allowing scientists to speak to the public, lifting bars against
involvement in scientific professional societies and punishment for
managers who skew technical data or findings.  These broad policy
strokes, however, now must be translated into enforceable internal
processes.

Interior's action will also affect the stalled presidential
scientific integrity initiative that was supposed to have been in place
in 2009 but is still in limbo.  Interior not only leapt ahead of the
tardy White House Office of Science & Technology Policy effort but
set a bar that all other agencies will have to meet, or else explain why
Interior can implement policies that are beyond their ken.

"While this is a welcome development, we have seen bold
rhetorical commitments to scientific integrity before without
follow-up," added Ruch, noting that the Interior order did not set a
deadline for promulgation of implementing rules.  "Once the rules are in
place, they must be enforced.  So, we will wait for the day when this
administration punishes one of its own political appointees for covering
up or sugarcoating inconvenient facts."

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Read the Secretarial Order

 Compare the original Interior proposal

See the stalled Obama scientific integrity agenda

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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