Contractors performing or communicating science or advising on scientific issues for the US Environmental Protection Agency must abide by the EPA’s policy to protect scientific integrity, according to a rule that the agency issued Oct. 19.
The regulation is legally enforceable and affects organizations that conduct paid research such as field sampling, laboratory experiments, and computer modeling for the EPA.
Among other provisions, the rule prohibits contractors from “attempted or actual intimidation or coercion of scientists to alter scientific data, findings, or professional opinions or non-scientific influence of scientific advisory boards.” It also bars hampering the “timely release of scientific findings or conclusions.”
Robert Kavlock, former acting assistant administrator for research and development at the EPA, endorses scientific integrity policies for all research the agency conducts or supports. But he has questions about how the new rule will be put in action. “How will it be implemented for the non-EPA workforce, who oversees it, how do they get trained, how is it reviewed, and what resources are needed by EPA to ensure it is implemented? It has to be more than words on paper,” says Kavlock, who retired from the agency in 2017 after over 30 years there. He is now a consultant.