EPA appoints scientific integrity official

By Erin Voegele | November 26, 2013

The U.S. EPA has appointed Francesca Grifo as its new scientific integrity official. In her new role, Grifo will coordinate and carry out the agency’s scientific integrity policy. She will also chair a standing EPA scientific integrity committee.

Grifo has many years of experience in scientific research, academia and scientific policy. She most recently served as a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. According to the UCS, she led a recent USC analysis that determined EPA has one of the strongest scientific integrity policies among federal agencies and departments.

“Science is, and continues, to be the backbone of this agency and the integrity of our science is central to the identity and credibility of our work,” said Gina McCarthy, administrator for EPA. “Dr. Grifo brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to EPA that will help continue our work to implement the agency’s scientific integrity policy.”

“Dr. Grifo has been in the vanguard of scientific integrity reform,” said Kathleen Rest, UCS executive director. “This position offers a huge opportunity to help one of our largest science agencies stay ahead of the curve on this issue. Science plays such a critical role in protecting public health and the environment, and there are few who appreciate that as much as Dr. Grifo.”

The EPA’s scientific integrity was published in February 2012. Among its many guidelines, the policy requires all agency employees to ensure that the agency’s scientific work is of the highest quality and free of political interference or personal motivations. Employees are also required to represent their work fairly and accurately, appropriately characterize intellectual contributions of others, ensure impartiality, understand the programmatic statutes that guide their work, welcome differing views and opinions on scientific and technical matters and accept the affirmative responsibility to report any breach of the policy. The policy also addresses the culture of scientific integrity at the EPA, in public communications, the use of peer review and federal advisory committees and the professional development of government scientists.

In late August, the U.S. EPA Office of Inspector General published a report noting that the agency must take steps to implement the requirements of its scientific integrity policy. The report noted that although the EPA’s scientific integrity policy requires an agency-wide training program, one had not been developed to instruct employees on the standards of scientific integrity. In addition, a required annual report on the status of scientific integrity had not been completed. The report found that the agency’s scientific advisory committee lack of process in implementing policy requirements made the EPA and its employees less equip to provide leadership on scientific integrity, promote agency compliance with the policy, keep senior leadership sufficiently informed and involved, and detect violations of the policy.

The report recommended that the deputy administrator of the EPA direct the scientific integrity committee to develop and implement agency-wide training, public an annual report before its first formal review of the policy and provide a written plant for describing the action plan and milestones for implementing and completing the training and issuing of the annual report. According to EPA OIG, the EPA is already taking corrective action on its first two recommendations, and the third recommendation is complete and closed.

A fully copy of the EPA’s scientific integrity report is available on the agency’s website. The OIG report, the agency response and the OIG comment on the agency response are available here.