Eyebrows Are Raised as Interior Aces Scientific Integrity Tests

"When it comes to scientific misconduct, the Interior Department has a troubled past."

"Under the George W. Bush administration, environmentalists accused the Fish and Wildlife Service of doing shoddy research. Polar bears, trumpeter swans, prairie dogs: All were up for Endangered Species Act protection under a process that environmentalists say was marred with selective studies, misrepresented research and direct political interference.

The low point came in 2007, when Interior's inspector general accused political appointee Julie MacDonald of inappropriately meddling with ESA decisions. She resigned, and Interior suffered a public relations nightmare.

Five years later, Interior officials are in the middle of a charm offensive, working hard to clean up a tarnished image. While most agencies put scientific integrity on the back burner, the department issued a widely praised policy, appointed a departmentwide scientific integrity officer and tasked nine employees with helping to root out political interference in research.

But Interior has yet to find any evidence of scientific misconduct under its new process. A point of pride for the agency has become a source of suspicion to critics: Can an agency with 70,000 employees who handle plenty of controversial decisions really be that squeaky-clean?"

Emily Yehle reports for Greenwire April 9, 2013.

Source: Greenwire, 04/11/2013