Reps. Tonko, Johnson, Tsongas, Lowenthal Introduce Bill to Protect Scientific Integrity in Federal Research

Mar 2, 2017

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science Committee members Representative Paul Tonko (NY-20) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), along with Representatives Niki Tsongas (MA-3) and Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), announced the introduction of the Scientific Integrity Act requiring U.S. federal agencies to adopt or strengthen policies to insulate government-directed research from the influence of political pressure and special interests. The bill was introduced with a total of 77 original cosponsors.

Under the Scientific Integrity Act:

  • Federal agencies that conduct or fund scientific research would be required to develop clear written scientific integrity policies that can guarantee research is being done and published without undue influence, censorship or distortion.
  • Scientific and technological information would be able to flow more easily while protecting privacy, confidentiality and national security.

24 separate federal agencies have developed scientific integrity policies to-date. This legislation would also codify and strengthen these policies within a common framework.

Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20): “Some of the best and brightest scientific minds alive today serve our country in the U.S. Federal Government. Their groundbreaking work has helped us better understand and protect our environment, transform our lives through innovation, keep our nation secure, and safeguard the health of every American. More and more, their research has become the subject of one political agenda or another. Not since the Scientific Revolution has there been a more important moment to stand for the basic ideas that inquiry must be free and facts and evidence matter.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30): “I want to thank my colleague Mr. Tonko for his leadership on this very important legislation. Over the last few years, Federal agencies have developed and implemented policies that ensure transparency and integrity in the conduct of scientific research, the communication of scientific findings, and the utilization of scientific findings in the policy making process. This bill in effect codifies those policies to ensure that they remain in place through both Republican and Democratic administrations. Federal scientists and engineers represent some of the brightest minds our nation has to offer. They have chosen a career in public service because they want to help solve our national challenges and contribute to a better world. I am concerned about the increasing suppression or denial of widely supported and tested scientific findings by some government and private sector leaders because of politics, ideology, or financial conflicts of interest. Those actions have contributed to an erosion in the public’s trust in science and done great harm to policy makers’ ability to develop smart solutions to our nation’s challenges. It’s time to restore the public trust and ensure the integrity of science in the policymaking process."

Rep. Niki Tsongas (MA-3): “It is in our nation’s DNA to pursue discovery, progress and innovation, and we do that through fact and science. Censorship and denial of fact-based science goes against what our country has always stood for. America is home to some of the brightest and most experienced minds in the world, many of whom are using their talents to bolster our national security, protect the future of our environment, boost job growth and lead the high-tech industry, just to name a few. We have a responsibility to ensure the federal government is supporting these ambitious and necessary endeavors, and in turn, we are utilizing scientific facts to form the foundation of our decision-making.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA-47): “Science informs policy. To prevent the reversal of this concept where policy dictates science and its outcomes, we must take steps to assure the integrity of Federal scientific research.  This bill will ensure that fundamental scientific integrity principles are enacted throughout the Federal government.”

John P. Holdren, former Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy cheered the bill’s introduction: "I applaud this excellent and much needed Congressional initiative, which would embody in law important elements of the progress on scientific integrity and transparency in government we were able to make in the Obama Administration using Executive authority."

Dr. Gretchen Goldman, Research Director, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists offered strong support for the legislation: “We can’t make policy in the public interest if we don’t put good science behind it. This bill would help protect science from political interference and manipulation, and let scientists and their agencies do the job they’re supposed to do—protect the public.” 

Full text of the bill can be found here: https://tonko.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Scientific_Integrity_Act_2017.pdf