Progress and Problems Government Scientists Report on Scientific Integrity at Four Agencies

Union of Concerned Scientists

UCS released a new report on scientific integrity at four federal agencies: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Almost a third (31%) of the 5,206 scientists who answered the survey reported that they thought business interests played too big a role in agency decisions.

Policy decisions better informed by the expertise of government scientists can lead to better outcomes—stronger public health protections, better management of natural resources, and great­er security for all. Therefore, as the country continues to face challenges from drinking water contamination to species pro­tection to food and drug safety, it is vital to maintain a high stan­dard of scientific integrity within government agencies.

To assess the state of scientific integrity within federal sci­ence agencies, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) con­ducted a survey of government scientists at four agencies—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis­tration (NOAA). UCS surveys of FDA, FWS, and NOAA scien­tists conducted in previous years can be used as comparisons.

The results indicate that progress has been made. How­ever, much more work is needed to protect science and scien­tists from political interference and to enable scientists to share their expertise publicly. Some survey respondents re­port inappropriate outside influence and political interfer­ence in government decision making. A considerable number of scientists across federal agencies feel they cannot openly communicate their scientific work to the public and the me­dia. And many scientific experts feel constrained by lack of resources and lack of respect for the scientific process.