Scientific Integrity Bill Advances in House

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The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology voted 25-6 to advance the Scientific Integrity Act to the House floor on October 17, 2019.  The legislation (H.R. 1709), which was approved by the panel with bipartisan support, would require federal agencies that fund, conduct, or oversee scientific research to adopt and enforce clear scientific integrity policies.  The bill would prohibit the government from suppressing agency scientific research and intimidating or coercing individuals to alter or censor scientific findings.

Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced the bill in March.  “The fact remains [that] whether a Democrat or a Republican sits in the speaker’s chair or the Oval Office, we need strong scientific integrity policies.  This bill would do just that, insulating public scientific research and reports from the distorting influence of political special interests by ensuring strong scientific integrity standards at America’s science agencies,” stated Tonko, according to a report by Eos.  Although more than 20 federal agencies have already adopted some form of a scientific integrity policy following a 2010 Executive Order from President Obama, “the policies are uneven in their enforcement and in their scope,” said Tonko.
The bill did not have any Republican cosponsors originally, but won bipartisan approval after House Science Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) offered an amendment to delete provisions that would have allowed government scientists to respond to media interview requests without getting prior agency approval.  Lucas preferred leaving it up to the agencies and administrations to determine their own media policies.  “Every administration deserves the opportunity to shape policy and message,” said Lucas.  Once the amendment was adopted, Lucas, along with five other Republican lawmakers, voted in favor of the bill.
The legislation, which currently has 229 cosponsors, must now pass the full House as well as the Senate, where companion legislation has been introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).  According to Halpern, Republican support for the bill in the House is expected to improve its prospects in the Senate.