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Science Advisor Programs

New in 2016

In FY 2016, the Scientific Integrity Official, with the help of the Scientific Integrity Committee, developed the following new products that further promote adherence to the Scientific Integrity Policy.

Training

Scientific Integrity Whiteboard Training
In FY2016, the Scientific Integrity Program deployed a new training program focused on increasing the awareness and understanding of the EPA Scientific Integrity Policy and demonstrating how scientific integrity enhances the Agency’s work. The training was intended for employees who spend at least 25% of their time conducting, utilizing, communicating, or supervising science. 

The Scientific Integrity Whiteboard Video Training consists of in-person workshops, conducted by designated trainers for each program and regional office. These trainers received instruction on how to conduct sessions from the Scientific Integrity Official (ScIO). The sessions were comprised of a short presentation providing context and background information about the Policy, and two short whiteboard animated videos – the first providing an introduction to scientific integrity at EPA and the second providing a case study of how to prevent a potential lapse of scientific integrity.  This was followed by a group discussion, allowing participants to ask questions. Supplemental materials for the training were provided, including a curriculum guide and frequently asked questions and answers for trainers as well as an informational handout for participants.

Over 3,400 employees participated in the Whiteboard Video Training in FY 2016. The training initiative extended through November 30, 2016, and is estimated to have reached over 5,000 employees across the Agency.

Training Evaluation
EPA received a bronze Telly Award for the introductory whiteboard video, “Scientific Integrity at EPA,” in the category for online video training. The innovative whiteboard video format used in our training this year has been well-received by employees across the Agency. The Scientific Integrity Program also developed a survey to quantitatively evaluate the effectiveness of the training. By September of 2016, the survey was sent to the first approximately 2000 recipients of the training and asked trainees their opinions on the course and tested their knowledge. Preliminary results showed positive responses to the training.
 
New Employee On-Boarding Training
Starting in January 2017, all new EPA employees are required to take on-line scientific integrity training. The training consists of a video showing the Scientific Integrity Official conducting a training session that features the introductory whiteboard video and discussion, followed by a short quiz. Showing this training to new employees will help them to establish a personal commitment to scientific integrity, which will contribute to the overall culture of scientific integrity at EPA.
 
Best Practices for Designating Authorship
Authorship disputes were a major theme in the allegations of a loss of scientific integrity received by the Scientific Integrity Official in recent years. Authorship is an important part of scientific integrity, as it provides transparency into the origins of a scientific product. Without knowing who was involved in the product, it is difficult to validate the merit of the work. Recognition as an author can also be an essential measure of job performance and necessary for career advancement.

To promote transparency regarding authorship issues, the Scientific Integrity Program developed Best Practices for Designating Authorship to provide information for EPA employees, contractors, and grantees. To qualify as an author, one must make a substantial intellectual contribution, write or provide editorial revisions with critical intellectual content, and approve the final version with the understanding that authorship comes with accountability for the work.

Authorship is a reward and a responsibility and should be talked about early and often. It is the hope of the Scientific Integrity Program that this best practices document will help to prevent and resolve authorship disputes and issues and enhance the culture of scientific integrity at EPA.

Survey on Scientific Integrity at EPA

In FY 2016, a survey was administered to all EPA employees as part of a broader effort to formally evaluate the Scientific Integrity Policy and the significance of the Agency’s scientific integrity efforts. The goals of the survey included: establishing a baseline of EPA employees’ experiences and awareness of scientific integrity issues regarding their scientific research and scientific products; establishing a baseline of EPA employees’ awareness and understanding of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy and associated procedures and policies; and providing information for the Scientific Integrity Committee and Scientific Integrity Official on potential ways to improve the implementation, content, and impact of the Scientific Integrity Policy.

The survey questionnaire featured 29 questions designed to measure employees’ experience with scientific integrity at EPA, as well as their awareness and familiarity with the Policy. Participants were automatically directed to one of two forms based on their response to the first question, which asked them to report the amount of time spent conducting, utilizing, communicating, or managing science.  Using skip logic, participants who reported that they spend less than 25% (total) on the listed activities were directed to a short-form version of the survey, which included only 15 of the 29 questions. Participants indicating that they spend a total of 25% or more of their time conducting, utilizing, communicating, or managing science were directed to the long-form version, which consisted of all 29 questions, organized into the following broad categories:

1.          Awareness and Understanding of EPA’s Scientific Integrity Policy and Procedures

2.          Whistleblower Protections

3.          Culture of Scientific Integrity at EPA

4.          Release of Scientific Information to the Public

5.          Professional Development

6.          Peer Review

7.          Demographics

8.          Final Comments

The survey was sent to 14,903 EPA employees from November 16, 2015, to January 19, 2016. A total of 5,763 employees, representing all program offices and regions, submitted responses. Of these, 1,970 (just over one third) were directed to the short-form version, while 3,793 took the long-form version.

Respondents of the long-form survey included employees from all programs, offices, and regions. Participants represented a variety of General Schedule (GS) grade levels from GS-9 and lower to GS-15. The largest group was GS-13 (44.7%), followed by 18.3% of employees identified as GS-14 grade level, and 15.5% as GS-15 grade level. The Scientific Integrity Program is analyzing the survey results.

Scientific Integrity Committee Retreat

In June 2016, the Scientific Integrity Committee held a retreat to discuss the role of the Committee and also outreach, visibility, and training on scientific integrity. During the retreat, Dr. Stanley Meiburg, then Acting Deputy Administrator, expressed his appreciation for Dr. Grifo’s and the Committee members’ commitment to scientific integrity at EPA. He reinforced the importance of scientific integrity as a core value of the Agency. He said that the objective is to follow the law, follow the science, be transparent, and work collaboratively. Following science is a signature of EPA, and Agency managers must do all that they can to create an atmosphere where scientists feel supported in doing their work.