The majority of EPA employees are dissatisfied with the agency’s culture of scientific integrity and its release of scientific information to the public, with 59 and 57 percent of those responding to a survey conducted by the inspector general’s office there expressing those views.
The EPA’s scientific integrity policy – issued in 2012 in response to 2009 and 2010 White House orders that all agencies have such policies – sets standards for scientific products to communication with the public and sets an expectation that all EPA employees will adhere to it including by reporting breaches. It is overseen by a committee of members from all EPA regions and program offices.
The IG said that in comparison with a 2016 survey by the agency, its own survey results “demonstrate higher levels of awareness of the SI Policy and how to report a potential SI violation. However, our survey revealed lower measures of perceived leadership support of SI and of satisfaction with the review and clearance of scientific documents.”
“Additional areas of concern for these respondents included the ability to express scientific opinions, management support for scientifically defensible positions, reporting of research findings without alteration or suppression, and the transparency of the scientific (or nonscientific) basis for senior leader policy decisions,” it said.
From February 2012 – March 2020, interference, suppression or delayed release were the most common issues raised with the SI program office, according to the report, Further Efforts Needed to Uphold Scientific Integrity Policy at EPA.
The IG also said that procedures to address potential violations were not finalized, mandatory training was not tracked, annual reporting was not timely, and the release of scientific products was not supported by a centralized clearance system.