EDGI Urges White House Scientific Integrity Task Force to Improve Public Information Policies

Image shows the call for information posted on EPA’s website.

EDGI Urges White House Scientific Integrity Task Force to Improve Public Information Policies 

In response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s call for information to improve scientific integrity, EDGI submits a public comment drawing from analysis of federal environmental communications since 2017.

July 29, 2021 — Yesterday, Environmental Data & Governance Initiative’s (EDGI’s) Website Monitoring Team sent a public comment to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The comment responds to the OSTP’s request for “information to help improve the effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies to enhance public trust in science.” 

Better information policies are critical to upholding scientific integrity, building public trust in the federal government, and engendering broader and more democratic participation in setting the priorities and actions of the federal government. Based on their monitoring, research, and analysis of federal environmental websites since 2017, the website monitoring team provides recommendations for how (and why) the OSTP should adopt better information policies. 

Their comment says in part, “The majority of people accessing federal information do so through agency websites. While guidance exists for federal web infrastructure and the delivery of web services, there is scant guidance regarding the content of web resources. This substantial gap in federal information policy leaves website content vulnerable to partisan political interference and breaches of scientific integrity and impedes the implementation of effective scientific integrity policies.“

And, “Stronger public information policies are necessary for stronger scientific integrity policies. This comment underscores that relationship by providing specific examples of federal website information management decisions during the Trump administration that were at odds with scientific integrity and undermined public trust. The website changes described here are just a few examples of more than 2,000 changes our team has documented over the last four and a half years, all of which are permissible under current information and scientific integrity policies.”

And, “… [Improving information policies] includes creating policies that require both scientific and policy context to be communicated to the public, enhancing federal science communications to help people build scientific literacy, creating an archival record of evolving scientific understanding and policy context, and adopting a culture and practice of information care and maintenance.” 

CONTACT: Members of EDGI’s Website Monitoring Team are available to answer media, academic, or community questions about their public comment and the importance of the OSTP establishing better policies for publicly available federal information. Please contact EDGI communications coordinator Shannan Lenke Stoll at ShannanStoll.edgi@gmail.com with any inquiries.  

READ THE PUBLIC COMMENT: The full text of the EDGI’s Website Monitoring Team’s July 28, 2021 public comment is below: