Advancing Principles of Scientific Stewardship

The United States benefits from the finest system of research -- fundamental, translational, applied -- in the world. This world-renowned research supported by our federal science agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), has been wisely promoted by policymakers from both parties who understand the value of long-term investments in research and who have fostered the creation of a system that allows the best science to flourish. Effective policy planning and appropriate, stable funding levels are essential to producing outcomes that save lives and reduce health care costs; enhance the quality of life of our families and children; improve systems of health care delivery; and lay the scientific foundations for improvements in education, safety, governance, and commerce.

We urge the U.S. Congress and Administration to act as responsible and effective stewards of the scientific infrastructure and to continue to uphold the quality of our nation’s research enterprise by embracing the fundamental values that have supported its development and maintained its quality. Failure to apply these principles can only cause harm to the American people and the rest of the world, by undermining the collective efforts of researchers and clinicians who create and transmit knowledge in order to make the world a better place for all. Accordingly, we strongly urge Congress and the Executive Branch to continue supporting:

1.) Scientific merit review (also called “peer review”) to judge the quality and relevance of research proposals.

Hundreds of scientists and clinicians from universities and research institutions across the country, representing a wide range of disciplines, volunteer their time and expertise to make the system work. This merit review combined with second-level review by the scientific and lay (public) members of advisory councils and committees ensures that scientific merit and public values work together to fund the best science without congressional interference.

2.) Federal science funding agencies’ efforts to assure the quality of federally supported research and its applicability to agencies’ missions and priorities.

Agency scientific standards and procedures should determine which projects receive public dollars. While Congressional oversight is appropriate, political rejection of specific projects after funding decisions have been made is not in the public’s best interest. Protection of the public requires that all research supported by the federal government be undertaken without prejudice.

3.) Adherence to and promotion of the highest standards of scientific integrity and transparency in developing and making scientific data available to the public.

In addition to protecting data, Congress and the Administration should protect the scientists who develop the data from political influence or pressure. Decision makers and the public should have confidence that the best available scientific evidence is being used to combat public health, environmental and other threats.

 
 
 

Map updates courtesy of Association of American Geographers