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Fri Oct 18, 2019, 08:49 AM

Scientific integrity bill advances in U.S. House with bipartisan support

Source: Science Magazine

Scientific integrity bill advances in U.S. House with bipartisan support

By Jeffrey Mervis Oct. 17, 2019 , 3:55 PM

Despite their failure to attract a single Republican co-sponsor, Democrats in Congress have long insisted that a bill to strengthen scientific integrity across U.S. government agencies takes a bipartisan stance and is not a veiled attack on the Trump administration’s attitude toward science. That claim of bipartisanship took a big step forward today as the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives tweaked the bill to satisfy key Republicans on the panel.

By a vote of 25 to six, the committee voted to advance the legislation (H.R. 1709), which would require some two dozen federal research agencies to develop and follow clear principles designed to protect scientists and the research they carry out from political influence. Several agencies have adopted such policies following a 2010 executive order from then-President Barack Obama. The bill, if enacted, would transform that presidential directive into a law that would also require training on the topic and direct agencies on how to monitor any alleged violations.

Nobody opposes the idea of allowing federal scientists to pursue important research, publish the results, and discuss their findings at scientific conferences and with the public. But politics enters into the equation when defending scientific integrity is seen as interfering with the legitimate right of any administration to carry out its policies.

The Democrats initially did little to assuage Republican fears that the legislation was a response to actions taken to curtail the use and dissemination of research by President Donald Trump and his appointees at several agencies, notably the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. “Science is under threat in U.S. public policy (and) science-based policy decisions are distorted by political interests,” proclaims the website of the bill’s lead sponsor, Representative Paul Tonko (D–NY).

Tonko avoided such rhetoric, however, at this morning’s markup of the bill, declaring that “scientific integrity transcends any one party” and noting that he began to craft the bill while Obama was still in office. And in the end, the key compromise that assured passage dealt with a much narrower issue, namely, how agency scientists should interact with the media.


Read more: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/scientific-integrity-bill-advances-us-house-bipartisan-support

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