On September 26, EPA published a proposal addressing scientific integrity in the context of agency contractors who perform scientific research or analyses. It would create a new standard contract clause designed to ensure that all scientific work performed for the Agency is done consistently with the agency’s scientific integrity policy, which dates from 2009. The proposal also includes regulations for addressing loss of scientific integrity, including steps for mitigation or termination in appropriate cases.
Contractors who become aware of “an actual or potential” loss of integrity would be required to report it to the contracting officer, who would ultimately decide on the remedy, if any. Contractors would bear the primary responsibility for prevention and detection of research misconduct and for the inquiry, investigation, and adjudication of research misconduct alleged to have occurred in association with its own institution. However, EPA would retain the ultimate oversight authority for EPA-supported research.
This could be a useful tool in addressing any noncompliance with EPA’s integrity policies that may come to light in research sponsored by EPA. However, there are a couple of apparent holes in the proposal. It does not clearly state that the contractor or contracting officer must investigate a loss (or potential loss) of integrity brought to their attention by a third party, such as a potentially regulated stakeholder. In addition, it focuses on EPA’s 2009 integrity policy but does not mention compliance with the regulations for strengthening integrity in regulatory science that EPA proposed earlier this year. Comments on this proposal are due by November 26.