On June 16, 2011, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a draft of its scientific integrity policy (pdf). The policy comes in response to President Obama’s March 9, 2009 memorandum directing the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to consult with relevant executive departments and agencies to recommend a plan to achieve “the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.” Director of OSTP John Holdren issued further guidance on scientific integrity in a December 17, 2010 memorandum.
NOAA’s draft policy is comprehensive, covering both employees and contractors involved with scientific activities. It provides a “Code of Conduct” that establishes formal guidance for NOAA scientists. It also includes a training component. The policy encourages scientists to publish their data and findings and to talk to the media about their research, in an effort to be leaders in the scientific community.
The policy has drawn praise from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Director Francesca Grifo cautioned, however, that NOAA will need the support of its parent agency, the Department of Commerce, to implement the policy. Though expressing praise for the policy, Grifo had several recommendations for its improvement, including the use of visitor logs to inform the public about who is meeting with agency officials and publicly reporting on the progress of efforts to address alleged scientific misconduct.
In addition to the draft policy, NOAA also released a handbook (pdf) that outlines procedures to respond to allegations of misconduct. Both draft documents are available at www.noaa.gov/scientificintegrity. The policy is open for public comment until August 15, 2011.