Society for Conservation Biology

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Scientific Integrity

Defining the Issue

Many environmental laws contain legal mandates that require the best available science to be used to inform policies regarding the protection of the environment, including biological diversity. Despite these mandates, the best available science is too often ignored or undermined by improper political pressures.

How SCB Works on Scientific Integrity Issues

SCB monitors the actions of the government agencies to ensure that the best available science regarding the portection of biological diversity is used in implementing major conservation laws.  SCB brings attention to situations where biodiversity protections are being compromised.  We attempt to correct those situations through public comments, Congressional testimony, media outreach, and helping scientists ensure that their research is being used properly.  Our highlighted activities, Strengthening the Endangered Species Act and Ensuring Scientific Integrity within the Department of Interior, provide examples of our work in improving the substantive and procedural aspects of scientific integrity in policies affecting biodiversity. This work also encompasses making sure that other conservation laws, from environmental impact assessments to forest and marine resource management, are implemented using the best possible science.

Highlighted Activity: Strengthening the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the most comprehensive laws ever passed anywhere in the world to prevent the extinction of endangered species.  Despite its strength, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has remained unchanged since 1988, and the regulations that implement the ESA have mostly remained unchanged since 1986, one year after the founding of the Society for Conservation Biology.  Many of the advances in knowledge in the field of Conservation Biology and its related disciplines have yet to be incorporated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the two agencies responsible for implementation the ESA.  In late 2008, SCB briefed the Obama Transition Team on a set of recommendations for improving the implementation of several United States environmental laws including the ESA. Since then we have worked with these two agencies to implement the reforms we suggested  in 2008.  In order to expedite the implementation of these recommendations, SCB has begun the process of petitioning the Services to adopt regulatory language needed to implement our recommendations.  Learn more here.

Highlighted Activity: Ensuring Scientific Integrity within the Department of Interior

During the Bush Administration, there were several high-profile incidents where policy decisions relating to the protection of endangered species were compromised by improper political interference.   In response, President Obama signed an Executive Memorandum on Scientific Integrity in March  of 2009 requiring each Department of the Federal government to implement a Scientific Integrity Program within their respective agencies to ensure that improper political pressures do not compromise decision-making.  SCB has prepared comments on several agencies' efforts to establish scientific integrity programs, and continues to monitor their development.

  • Read SCB's 2010 comments to the Department of Interior HERE and HERE.
  • Read SCB's comments to the Office of Science and Technology Policy HERE.

How You Can Get Involved

SCB has begun to assemble volunteer task forces of SCB members to help the society address each of its five policy priorities.  If you would like to volunteer to work on SCB’s Scientific Integrity task force, please CONTACT the policy director.

SCB has begun to assemble volunteer task forces of SCB members to help the society address each of its five policy priorities.  If you would like to volunteer to work on any of SCB’s policy task forces, you may CONTACT the policy director.

Additional Resources