Programs of the Office of the Science Advisor (OSA)

Basic Information about Scientific Integrity

Science is the backbone of EPA's decision-making. The Agency's ability to pursue its mission to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies. EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy was issued in February 2012 and provides a framework to promote scientific and ethical standards and to create a proactive culture to support them.

The policy applies to all EPA employees, including:

  • Scientists
  • Managers
  • Political appointees
  • Contractors
  • Grantees
  • Collaborators
  • Student volunteers

The policy establishes a Scientific Integrity Committee to implement the policy. The Committee consists of Deputy Scientific Integrity Officials that represent each of the Agency's Program Offices and Regions. The Scientific Integrity Official (ScIO) chairs the Committee. The ScIO is the Agency's focal point on scientific integrity and serves as the Agency's expert on such matters. 


Background on Scientific Integrity


Definition of Scientific Integrity

Scientific Integrity results from adherence to professional values and practices, when conducting and applying the results of science and scholarship. It ensures:

  • Objectivity
  • Clarity
  • Reproducibility
  • Utility

Scientific Integrity is important because it provides insulation from:

  • Bias
  • Fabrication
  • Falsification
  • Plagiarism
  • Outside interference
  • Censorship
  • Inadequate procedural and information security

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EPA's History of Integrity

EPA's ability to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies.  The EPA has a long history of promoting scientific integrity.  For example, early in EPA's history, then Administrator William Ruckelshaus established a culture of integrity and transparency by promising that the Agency would operate "in a fishbowl," asking EPA employees to "use their common sense and good judgement to conduct themselves with the openness and integrity which alone can ensure public trust in the Agency."

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Principles of Scientific Integrity

In 1999, the Agency published its Principles of Scientific Integrity, developed in conjunction with the EPA's National Partnership Council, which is comprised of representatives of Agency labor unions and management. The Principles laid out the basic rules for ethical behavior by all EPA employees in:

  • Conducting scientific research
  • Interpreting and presenting results
  • Using scientific information and data

Training was also made available at that time on the Scientific Integrity Principles.

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Executive Branch and EPA Reaffirm Commitment to Scientific Integrity

In his inaugural address in 2009, President Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place." He followed that up a few weeks later with an executive memorandum that expressed the need for robust science to inform and guide decisions by Executive Branch departments and agencies. Shortly after this, then EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a memorandum to all EPA employees in which she emphasized that science must be the compass guiding the EPA's environmental protection decisions and that the Agency cannot make the best decisions unless it has confidence in the integrity of the science on which it relies.   

In December, 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) provided guidance for the development of scientific integrity policies by federal agencies. The guidelines require agencies and departments to create or improve policies related to:

  • Foundations of scientific integrity in government
  • Public communications
  • Use of federal advisory committees
  • Professional development of scientists and engineers

Acknowledging differences in structure and degree of regulatory responsibility, agencies and departments were given some latitude in developing their policies.

In response to OSTP, EPA convened an ad hoc scientific integrity working group, with members from across the Agency. A few months later, EPA released its draft policy for public comment. All of the public comments were considered and, in combination with discussions with other Federal agencies, contributed to an improved final policy, which was released in February 2012.

The EPA Scientific Integrity Policy builds upon EPA’s significant earlier scientific integrity efforts, focusing on the:

  • Promotion of a culture of scientific integrity throughout the EPA
  • Release of scientific information to the public
  • Consistent use of peer review and federal advisory committees
  • Professional development of government scientists

The Policy also established a Scientific Integrity Committee (the Committee) to provide oversight for its implementation. The Committee, led by the Scientific Integrity Official, encourages consistent Policy implementation and further bolsters the EPA’s broader efforts to ensure the integrity of the Agency’s scientific, engineering, and other technical work.

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Current Projects Related to Scientific Integrity


Scientific Integrity Policy Training

In November 2013, OSA issued a training course on the Scientific Integrity Policy. The course is mandatory for all managers and direct-line supervisors and employees within their organizations. All employees are encouraged to take the training. 

The course was designed to familiarize employees with the EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy. All employees, including scientists, managers, and political appointees, are required to follow the Policy when:

  • Engaging in, supervising, managing, or influencing scientific activities
  • Communicating information in an official capacity about Agency scientific activities
  • Utilizing scientific information in making Agency policy and management decisions

In addition, all contractors, grantees, collaborators and student volunteers of the Agency who engage in scientific activities are expected to uphold the standards established by the Policy and may be required to do so as part of their respective agreements with the EPA. 

As other aspects of the policy are fully implemented, additional training will be developed.

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Policy on Differing Scientific Opinions

EPA is developing a mechanism for Agency employees to express differing scientific opinions. This would apply to situations where an Agency scientist substantively engaged in the science informing an Agency policy decision disagrees with the scientific data, scientific interpretations, or scientific conclusions that will be relied upon for said Agency decision. 

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Evaluation of the Scientific Integrity Policy

EPA is developing a process to evaluate the Scientific Integrity Policy to ensure its effectiveness and adherence with applicable rules and regulations. 

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Procedures for Reporting and Resolving Allegations of the Loss of Scientific Integrity

EPA is in the process of formalizing procedures for reporting and resolving allegations of the loss of scientific integrity, which are summarized in the Reporting an Allegation section.

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Policy on EPA Scientific Integrity

The Agency has established, and continues to promote, a culture of scientific integrity for all of its employees. This policy provides a framework intended to ensure scientific integrity throughout the EPA and promote scientific and ethical standards, including: 

  • Quality standards
  • Communications with the public
  • The use of peer review and advisory committees
  • Professional development

View EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy

Frequent Questions about Scientific Integrity

  • General Frequent Questions about Scientific Integrity

    1. Why is scientific integrity important to the EPA?
      Science is the backbone of the EPA's decision-making. The agency's ability to pursue its mission to protect human health and the environment depends upon the integrity of the science on which it relies.
      The environmental policies, decisions, guidance and regulations that impact the lives of all Americans every day must be grounded, at the most fundamental level, in sound, high quality science.
      When dealing with science, it is the responsibility of every EPA employee to conduct, utilize and communicate science with honesty, integrity and transparency, both within and outside the Agency.
    2. What are the Principles of Scientific Integrity?
      The Agency has long fostered a culture of scientific integrity through its Principles of Scientific Integrity, developed in 1999:
      EPA employees, whatever their grade level, job or duties must:
      • Ensure that the Agency's scientific work is of the highest quality, free from political interference or personal motivations.
      • Represent his/her own work fairly and accurately.
      • Appropriately characterize, convey and acknowledge the intellectual contributions of others.
      • Avoid conflicts of interest and ensure impartiality.
      • Be cognizant of and understand the specific programmatic statutes that guide their work.
      • Welcome differing views and opinions on scientific and technical matters as a legitimate and necessary part of the scientific process.
      • Accept the affirmative responsibility to report any breach of the Scientific Integrity Policy.
      Consistent with these Principles, the Agency's Scientific Integrity Policy reaffirms the expectation that all Agency employees, including scientists, managers and political appointees, regardless of grade level, position or duties, uphold these principles.
    3. What are the roles and responsibilities of the EPA's Scientific Integrity Committee?
      The EPA's Scientific Integrity Committee:
      • Provides leadership for the Agency on scientific integrity.
      • Implements the Scientific Integrity Policy across the Agency in a consistent manner.
      • Promotes Agency compliance with the policy, including safeguarding against and mechanisms to ensure accountability for, any alteration or manipulation of scientific data by managers and other Agency leadership.
      • Addresses Scientific Integrity Policy concerns, updates and amendments.
    4. What does scientific misconduct include?
      Scientific misconduct includes fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing or reviewing scientific and research activities, or in the publication or reporting of these activities.
      Scientific misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.
    5. What policies and procedures does the EPA have in place to protect against scientific misconduct?
      The EPA has in place clearly articulated policies and procedures protecting against scientific misconduct by all Agency employees, including managers and other Agency leadership, which are summarized in the following document:
  • Frequent Questions about EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy

    1. Why was EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy developed?
      On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued an executive memorandum that articulated the need for sound science to inform and guide agency decisions.
      In response, in 2010, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) provided foundational principles and specific expectations for scientific integrity in the Federal government. In particular, OSTP asked the Federal agencies to develop scientific integrity policies that included four areas:
      • Scientific integrity in government
      • Public communications
      • Use of Federal Advisory Committees
      • Professional development of government scientists and engineers
      In February 2012, EPA enacted a new Scientific Integrity Policy that built on the Agency's long history of scientific safeguards and further ensures that sound science drives EPA decision making. The draft policy was open for public comment and the final policy incorporated stakeholder input from:
      • The EPA Science and Technology Policy Council
      • OSTP
      • The public
      • Agency scientists
    2. What are the goals of EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy?
      The goals of the Policy are to:
      • Ensure that the environmental policies, decisions, guidance and regulations that impact the lives of all Americans every day are grounded, at a most fundamental level, in sound, high quality science
      • Enhance the transparency within Agency scientific processes
      • Ensure that scientific research and results are presented openly and with integrity, accuracy and timeliness
      • Ensure the consistent use of peer review and Federal Advisory Committees
      • Promote the professional development of the Agency's scientists, engineers and other technical staff
    3. To whom does EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy apply?
      All employees, including scientists, managers and political appointees, are required to follow the Policy when:
      • Engaging in, supervising, managing or influencing scientific activities
      • Communicating information in an official capacity about Agency scientific activities
      • Utilizing scientific information in making Agency policy and management decisions
      In addition, all contractors, grantees, collaborators and student volunteers of the Agency who engage in scientific activities are expected to uphold the standards established by the Policy and may be required to do so as part of their respective agreements with the EPA.
    4. What is the focus of EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy?
      To promote scientific integrity throughout the Agency, EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy addresses four specific areas:
      • The culture of scientific integrity at the EPA
      • Release of scientific information to the public
      • The use of peer review and Federal Advisory Committees
      • Professional development of government scientists
      In addition, the 2012 policy established the Scientific Integrity Committee, chaired by the Agency's Scientific Integrity Official, to implement the policy

Scientific Integrity Products and Publications


Scientific Integrity Annual Report

OSA issued its second Annual Report on Scientific Integrity on March 2, 2015. The Annual Report highlights:

  • Scientific integrity milestones at EPA
  • Ongoing and new scientific integrity activities in FY2014
  • Scientific integrity accomplishments in FY2014
  • Opportunities for improvement
  • Areas for future investment

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Coordination Procedures for Misconduct Allegations

Coordination Procedures were developed with the Office of Inspector General to promote the efficient evaluation and disposition of decisions regarding scientific misconduct allegations.

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Other EPA Products and Publications

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Related External Products and Publications

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Reporting an Allegation

  • Reporting an Allegation of the Loss of Scientific Integrity

    EPA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the scientific and scholarly activities it conducts and that are conducted on its behalf. It will not tolerate misconduct or loss of integrity in the performance of scientific and scholarly activities or in the application of science and scholarship in decision making. Scientific and scholarly misconduct and loss of scientific integrity are the result of a deliberate action by an employee that compromises the scientific integrity of the conduct, production or use of scientific and scholarly activities and assessments. Misconduct includes intentional fabrication, falsification or plagiarism and is not the result of honest error or difference of opinion with a scientific and scholarly process or a management decision.

    To report an allegation of the loss of scientific or scholarly integrity, submit it in writing to the Scientific Integrity Official (ScIO), one of the Deputy Scientific Integrity Officials (DScIOs), or the Office of Inspector General. A link to the list of the ScIO and DScIOs and their contact information is below.

    Any matter concerning an allegation of a financial conflict of interest or other ethics issue involving federal employees will be referred to the appropriate Deputy Ethics Official or Office of General Counsel/Ethics, as appropriate.

    Allegations may be submitted by individuals or entities, internal or external to the Agency. An initial notice of an allegation of scientific and scholarly misconduct or loss of integrity reported to the ScIO or DScIO should contain the following information:

    • The name, affiliation and signature of the person(s) submitting the allegation and the name and organization of the person(s) alleged to have committed the misconduct or actions leading to the loss of integrity. If submitted electronically it must be from an email readily linked to the identity of the person submitting.
    • A description of the alleged misconduct or loss of integrity that includes:
      • Date
      • Circumstances
      • Location
    • An explanation of how the allegation relates to scientific and scholarly misconduct or loss of integrity and that demonstrates the impact of the alleged misconduct or loss of integrity.
    • A statement explaining any personal or professional extenuating circumstances, non-scientific disagreements or conflict(s) of interest the person making the allegation has with the subject(s), entity(ies) or situation(s), named in the allegation.
    • A statement indicating if this allegation is being considered or has been submitted elsewhere, such as:
      • Another EPA office
      • Court of law
      • Other jurisdiction
      • Complaint process
      • Governmental office
  • Contacts for Reporting an Allegation

Scientific Integrity Resources


Scientific Integrity Policies

The Scientific Integrity Policy, closely following the guidance from Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), includes issues from multiple EPA jurisdictions. In an effort to help EPA employees find the right source of further information, we provide the links below:

EPA has in place clearly articulated policies and procedures protecting against scientific misconduct by all Agency employees, including managers and other Agency leadership, which are summarized in the following document:

Policy and Procedures for Addressing Research Misconduct (EPA Order 3120.5) provides policy and procedures on the following research of misconduct by the EPA's employees, contractors and recipients of assistance agreements:

  • Reporting
  • Procedures
  • Investigations
  • Adjudication

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Quality Assurance

EPA uses its Quality System to manage the quality of its environmental data collection, generation, and use. The primary goal of the Quality System is to ensure that our environmental data are of sufficient quantity and quality to support the data's intended use. Under the EPA Quality System, EPA organizations develop and implement supporting quality systems. Similar specifications may also apply to contractors, grantees and other recipients of financial assistance from EPA.

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Peer Review

High quality scientific and technical information enables EPA and stakeholders alike to effectively participate in assessing and managing human health and environmental risks. OSA leads Agency efforts of ensuring quality information by facilitating the development and implementation of peer review procedures and approaches for EPA staff and managers.

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Scientific Integrity Committee

Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D., EPA Scientific Integrity Official and Committee Chair

Office/Region
Deputy Scientific Integrity Official
Office of Air and Radiation Betsy Shaw
Office of Administration and Resources Management 
Donna Vizian
Office of the Chief Financial Officer Mark Hague
Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention David Dix
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Carol Rushin
Office of Environmental Information Ron Borsellino 
Office of General Counsel Carol Ann Siciliano
Office of International and Tribal Affairs Martin Dieu
Office of Policy Al McGartland
Office of Research and Development
Robert Kavlock
Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Barry Breen
Office of Water Mike Shapiro
Office of the Administrator  John Reeder
Office of the Science Advisor
Mary Greene
Region 1 Robert Maxfield
Region 2 Marie O'Shea
Region 3 John Forren
Region 4 Thomas Baugh
Region 5 Carole Braverman
Region 6 Richard McMillin
Region 7 Cecilia Tapia
Region 8 Debra Thomas
Region 9 Eugenia McNaughton
Region 10 Joyce Kelly

Whistleblower Protections at EPA

When the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 was signed into law on November 27, 2012, the law bolstered the protections and rights found in the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. Among other things, the enhanced Act provides whistleblower protection for government scientists who challenge censorship of scientific information or make whistleblower disclosures related to the integrity of scientific processes. In response to additional requirements of the Act, EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) has designated a whistleblower protection ombudsman to be responsible for educating employees about whistleblower protections, rights and remedies.