Keeping science independent of politics

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Conservation Biology by Australian researchers and compares recent challenges to scientific integrity to determine what aspects of scientific input into conservation policy are most at risk of political distortion and what can be done to strengthen safeguards against such abuses. To ensure the integrity of outbound communications from government scientists to the public, the researchers suggest that governments strengthen scientific integrity policies, include scientists’ right to speak freely in collective-bargaining agreements, guarantee public access to scientific information, and strengthen agency culture supporting scientific integrity. To ensure the transparency and integrity with which information from nongovernmental scientists (e.g., submitted comments or formal policy reviews) informs the policy process, they suggest governments broaden the scope of independent reviews, ensure greater diversity of expert input and transparency regarding conflicts of interest, require a substantive response to input from agencies, and engage proactively with scientific societies. For their part, scientists and scientific societies have a responsibility to engage with the public to affirm that science is a crucial resource for developing evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest. The article can be downloaded here