Strengthening Scientific Integrity
Science does not have a political agenda. As we move forward with policy to better our country and scientific enterprise, we must ensure that federal scientists and agencies are able to do their work free of political interference.
When science is done well, it is because trained professionals can follow the data and subject their findings to rigorous peer review. The scientific breakthroughs of the past year, including the COVID-19 vaccines, have shown the remarkable accomplishments our scientists can achieve when they are supported, work together, and make science-based decisions.
- Introduced legislation to ensure qualified scientists leading our nation’s critical agencies. Under current law, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Chief Scientist is appointed by the president and given a broad outline of their duties, but details on the qualifications of who would be eligible to serve as Chief Scientist or how the Chief Scientist establishes standards within NOAA’s scientific endeavors are lacking. H.R. 3952, the NOAA Chief Scientist Act, introduced by Chairwoman Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) of the subcommittee on Environment, would provide greater clarity on the qualifications of the presidentially-appointed Chief Scientist, and direct the Chief Scientist to establish and enforce high scientific integrity standards within NOAA and to provide yearly public reports on NOAA’s scientific work.
- Held a hearing to articulate the principles for transparency, scientific integrity, and objectivity that must accompany our continued efforts to understand infectious disease outbreaks. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised public interest in infectious disease outbreaks. Past disease outbreaks have illustrated the importance of patience, scientific transparency, objectivity, and international collaboration. On July 14, 2021, the Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing to consider how infectious diseases normally emerge; how understanding disease origins helps protect public health; methods for tracing outbreaks to a discrete origin; the scientific datasets and access that investigators need; and the principles for transparency, scientific integrity, objectivity, and public communication that accompany an ideal outbreak investigation. Following the hearing, Chairman Bill Foster (D-IL) of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight sent a letter to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander requesting a review of the adequacy and implementation of their oversight policies for life sciences dual use research of concern and federally-funded research on potential pandemic pathogens.
- Introduced legislation that sets clear, enforceable standards for federal agencies and federally-funded research to keep public science independent from political or special interest meddling. The Scientific Integrity Act, introduced on February 3, 2021 by Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), would help prevent undue influence over federal science. The Committee has long sought unified standards across federal agencies to protect science from political or special interest.