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Image credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing

New DoE guidelines stand for scientific integrity over politics

Updated policies give employees a way to fight back against suppression of inconvenient truths.
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U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R) nominates (from L-R) nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz to lead the Department of Energy, air quality expert Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and Walmart's Sylvia Mathews Burwell to become director of the White House budget office, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

At a time when scientific facts are frequently disputed for political reasons, the Department of Energy is updating its policy to ensure the "protection of scientific integrity." That quote comes from a Medium post by US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz that lays out why we need accurate, unbiased science and three points for the department's policy going forward:

  • Energy Department scientists are able to express their opinions.

  • Energy Department scientists must get the opportunity to review Department statements about their work.

  • Energy Department officials should not and will not ask scientists to tailor their work to particular conclusions.

As mentioned by The Verge and Nature, the revised guidelines arrive alongside concerns about appointments by the President-elect that have a troubling connection to science. His incoming energy secretary has previously said he'd like to shut the department down, but these new regulations would require Rick Perry to appoint an independent Scientific Integrity Official to handle complaints (like the kind you'd get after the coverup of an accident at a secret lab in Hawkins, Indiana).

The Union of Concerned Scientists notes the department has been working on the revised policy for years, pointing out an incident where a DOE scientist working at Los Alamos appeared to have been fired for a scientific paper he wrote on his own time. It will be up to the incoming administration to implement these new policies, and we'll have to wait and see if they try to roll any of the changes back. As it stands, they could be the only thing protecting employees working on issues like climate change or other politically charged topics. You can read the new rules yourself here (PDF).

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