By Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists
The House Science Committee just announced that it will amend and vote on the Scientific Integrity Act on Thursday at 10 am. This is the first time this kind of bill, which would protect the independence of science and scientists in federal government agencies, will receive a vote in the United States Congress. It is fantastic to see solid momentum and growing support in Congress for this good government legislation.
The Scientific Integrity Act would require federal science agencies to develop enforceable policies to create standards for publishing research, encourage scientists to publicly share their expertise, and discourage public employees from censoring or distorting federal research for political reasons. In July, I testified before the committee in support of the bill.
I and other witnesses criticized both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations for suppression and manipulation of federally-funded science. As each witness stressed that this problem predates the Trump administration, the tone of the hearing shifted from suspicion to solutions. It was a rare and refreshing moment of bipartisan agreement that action must be taken to protect scientific integrity.
Scores of public interest organizations endorsed the legislation in July. In the months since, we’ve only seen more evidence that the legislation is needed, including the censorship of National Weather Service scientists during #Sharpiegate.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan task force affiliated with the Brennan Center said that we are at a “crisis point” for federal government science, “with almost weekly violations of previously respected safeguards.” The task force report called on Congress to pass legislation like the Scientific Integrity Act to reign in political interference in science.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has tracked political interference in science under both Democratic and Republican presidents for nearly two decades and has made specific recommendations to insulate scientists from political interference in their work. The American people deserve a government that allows its scientists to conduct and publicly share their critical work and expertise without political influence to better protect communities all over the country.
I’ll be at the hearing on Thursday, and hope to see bipartisanship in action. I’ll be tweeting about the outcome @halpsci.