Interior Dept takes steps to strengthen scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking
WASHINGTON — The Interior Department this week took steps to recommit to scientific integrity and empower the agency’s scientific and technical experts to use the best available science. Signed on Interior’s 172nd birthday and the 142nd birthday for the U.S. Geological Survey, secretarial order 3397 revokes Secretarial Order 3369 – falsely branded the “open science” rule – that imposed improper restrictions on what science and data could be considered in the Department’s policymaking.
“Science is at the heart of Interior’s mission – from protecting endangered species to conducting environmental assessments for energy projects,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “Today’s Order puts the evaluation and decision-making authority regarding scientific information back where it should be: in the hands of the scientists. It’s an important step toward restoring trust in government and strengthening scientific integrity at the Interior Department.”
The order initiates a review of all agency activities taken pursuant to SO 3369 and provides direction to the Department to comply with President Biden’s memorandum to advance scientific integrity.
The 2018 Secretarial Order was issued without due consideration and review by the Department’s career scientists and officials, or by the broader scientific community. Among the serious concerns with the Order’s directives, it hindered the Department’s ability to enter into contracts for cutting-edge research, and precluded the Department from utilizing sensitive information – e.g., regarding sacred sites or rare and threatened species – to inform complex policy decisions.
Acting Secretary de la Vega’s Order directs that scientific merit, not political interference will guide agency decision-making; prevents the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results; and supports scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
Interior leadership has begun a review of the scientific integrity programs within the Department and is re-invigorating Interior's Science Advisors’ Council.