Federal Manager's Daily Report

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The GAO has recommended strengthening scientific integrity policies at HHS, after finding that the four subagencies it reviewed—CDC, FDA, NIH and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response—”do not have procedures that define political interference in scientific decision-making or describe how it should be reported and addressed.”

Those agencies did not identify any formally reported internal allegations of potential political interference in scientific decision-making from 2010 through 2021, GAO said, but in interviews and a confidential hotline that GAO set up, employees said “they observed incidents that they perceived to be political interference but did not report them.”

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Reasons for not reporting included “fearing retaliation, being unsure how to report issues, and believing agency leaders were already aware,” it said.

All four train employees on some scientific integrity-related topics such as public health ethics, it said, “but only NIH includes information on political interference in scientific decision-making as part of its scientific integrity training.” Further, GAO said that none of the four “define political interference or describe how it should be reported and addressed.”

It said that HHS concurred with its recommendations to include information on whistleblower protections, and clarify any reporting requirements for employees who believe they observed potential political interference in scientific decision-making.

The GAO added that over more than a decade, “Congress and multiple administrations have taken actions to help ensure that federal science agencies have scientific integrity policies and procedures in place that, among other things, protect against the suppression or alteration of scientific findings for political purposes.”

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