Guest post from Daniel Cotter, Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Senior Advisor and DHS Scientific Integrity Official.
In its comprehensive new framework (PDF, 66 pgs., 1.15 MB) released earlier this year, the White House defines ‘scientific integrity’ as the adherence to professional practices, ethical behavior, and the principles of honesty and objectivity when conducting, managing, using the results of, and communicating about science and scientific activities. Inclusivity, transparency, and protection from inappropriate influence are hallmarks of scientific integrity.
At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) we take these values to heart. We have updated the Department’s Scientific Integrity Directive, which we are pleased to share today in draft for public review and comment. The final Directive will officially be released in Fiscal Year 2024; we will accept and consider comments on the draft through October 20, 2023.
The Directive lays out specific DHS guidance regarding the Department’s commitment to maintaining scientific integrity and accountability across all components, including here at S&T. We are committed to upholding the highest levels of integrity with all of our scientific activities—from our research and development efforts to the publications we release to how we make decisions based on science.
Work began on this Directive back in 2021 as a response to the Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking, which established the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Scientific Integrity Fast-Track Action Committee. At the time, this committee was tasked with:
- Reviewing scientific integrity policies across federal agencies;
- Analyzing instances when scientific integrity policies had not been followed or enforced in a report; and
- Creating a framework for regular assessment for iterative improvement of agency scientific integrity policies and practices.
In January 2022, the committee released its findings in the Protecting the Integrity of Government Science (PDF, 67 pgs., 966 KB) report.
When the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released the abovementioned framework a year later, it outlined a model scientific integrity policy for federal agencies along with guidelines, requirements, and evaluation materials. The Framework set forth the following deadlines for federal agencies to develop their own related directives:
- Within 60 days: Agencies submit new scientific integrity policies for review by OSTP and the NSTC Subcommittee on Scientific Integrity.
- Within 120 days: OSTP and the Subcommittee complete reviews of the policies against the Framework.
- Within 180 days: Agencies provide an opportunity for public comment against the draft scientific integrity policies.
- Within 270 days: All agencies submit final scientific integrity policies to OSTP for public release.
- Within 360 days and every two years: OSTP and the Subcommittee assess policies, practices and culture of scientific integrity.
We are currently at step three in this timeline, a critical step that will ensure that the public has a voice in ensuring federal government accountability. In building the DHS Directive, an initial draft was developed and sent to the Chief Scientist, the Office of the General Counsel, the Department’s Evaluation Officers, and others for review. The interim draft was then submitted to OSTP on March 31, 2023.
It has been quite a journey to reach this point and we look forward to reviewing each of the submitted comments. As you can see from our timeframe, we have exercised our due diligence in developing a Directive that highlights the importance of scientific integrity at DHS while staying aligned with steps prescribed in OSTP’s framework.
Once the comment period closes, DHS will review public comments and complete a final draft of the Scientific Integrity Directive which will then go out for final DHS-wide review. Once complete, it will be publicly posted on the S&T Scientific Integrity web page.
Please submit all comments to Scientific_Integrity@hq.dhs.gov prior to the October 20 deadline.