Brac­ing for Trump's Anti-sci­ence Agenda, DOE An­nounces 'Sci­en­tific In­tegrity Pol­icy'

Traveling Minds - - Table Of Contents - By Deirdre Ful­ton

As Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump's anti-sci­ence ad­min­is­tra­tion pre­pares to swoop into Wash­ing­ton, D.C., out­go­ing De­part­ment of En­ergy (DOE) Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz on Wed­nes­day an­nounced a new "sci­en­tific in­tegrity pol­icy" meant to pro­tect work­ers and poli­cies that may be at risk.

Ac­cord­ing to Moniz, who an­nounced the pol­icy in a Medium post and at a Na­tional Press Club speech, the pol­icy makes clear that:

En­ergy De­part­ment sci­en­tists are able to ex­press their opin­ions;

En­ergy De­part­ment sci­en­tists must get the op­por­tu­nity to re­view de­part­ment state­ments about their work;

and En­ergy De­part­ment of­fi­cials should not and will not ask sci­en­tists to tai­lor their work to par­tic­u­lar con­clu­sions.

"As a sci­en­tist and an Amer­i­can, I care deeply about sci­en­tific in­de­pen­dence and in­tegrity, be­cause they are es­sen­tial com­po­nents of the sci­en­tific method," Moniz wrote. "Ev­i­dence, ob­ser­va­tion, ex­per­i­ment, and anal­y­sis are the ap­pro­pri­ate ways to test a hy­poth­e­sis."

The Verge re­ports that the pol­icy "also re­quires the en­ergy sec­re­tary—soon to be for­mer Texas gov­er­nor Rick Perry, who once said he wanted to shut down the de­part­ment en­tirely—to ap­point an om­buds­man for sci­en­tific in­tegrity." And the new stan­dards, which ap­ply to con­trac­tors as well as DOE em­ploy­ees, al­low sci­en­tists to pub­licly state their opin­ions on sci­ence and pol­icy, as long as they make clear that they are not speak­ing for the gov­ern­ment.

Michael Halpern, deputy di­rec­tor at the Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists' Cen­ter for Sci­ence and Democ­racy, said the pol­icy's "lan­guage is strong and pre­cise, giv­ing sci­en­tists and sci­ence ad­vo­cates a solid plat­form to stand on in push­ing back against the ma­nip­u­la­tion and sup­pres­sion of sci­ence and the ha­rass­ment of sci­en­tists." The Verge re­porter An­gela Chen writes:

It's im­por­tant that th­ese new poli­cies have been re­leased be­fore Trump's in­au­gu­ra­tion. In the months since the Novem­ber elec­tion, Trump has shown that his ad­min­is­tra­tion, like the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, is un­likely to take sci­ence se­ri­ously. Trump ques­tioned global warm­ing while on the cam­paign trail and asked the En­ergy De­part­ment for the names of its cli­mate change work­ers. Trump later backed down, af­ter they re­fused to com­ply with the re­quest. Still, there are loop­holes that could let him wage war on sci­en­tific ex­per­tise, and sci­en­tists have been scram­bling to save gov­ern­ment cli­mate data be­fore he is sworn in.

The Se­nate En­ergy Com­mit­tee on Thurs­day set Perry's con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing for Jan­uary 19.

Halpern sug­gested the com­mit­tee "use the con­fir­ma­tion process to en­sure [Perry] com­mits to fol­low­ing" the new pol­icy. "Se­na­tors should pri­or­i­tize ask­ing Gov­er­nor Perry for de­tails on how he plans to im­ple­ment the new sci­en­tific in­tegrity stan­dards," Halpern wrote. "And then they should hold him to those com­mit­ments through con­tin­ued over­sight."

He con­tin­ued: "A few ques­tions I'd ask Gov­er­nor Perry: Are there any parts of the sci­en­tific in­tegrity pol­icy that he would change? What plans does he have to train DOE em­ploy­ees about how to use the new pol­icy? Will he give the om­budsper­son the au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in sci­ence? What kind of pub­lic re­port­ing will the de­part­ment do?"

Out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama spoke to the im­por­tance of sci­en­tific in­tegrity dur­ing his farewell ad­dress this week.

"With­out some com­mon base­line of facts," he said, "with­out a will­ing­ness to ad­mit new in­for­ma­tion, and con­cede that your op­po­nent might be mak­ing a fair point, and that sci­ence and rea­son mat­ter...then we're go­ing to keep talk­ing past each other, and we'll make com­mon ground and com­pro­mise im­pos­si­ble."

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