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Controversial ‘Open Science’ Secretarial Order rescinded

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The Department of the Interior announced that acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega signed a secretarial order revoking the Trump-era “Open Science” order issued in 2018 by then-Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. The new order also calls for a review of all departmental activities taken as a result of the Trump administration's scientific policies.

The new order notes that the previous directive was developed without review and input from the scientific community, and that it “significantly hindered the Department’s ability to enter into contracts for cutting-edge research, particularly when such research involved proprietary data,” and “left the Department’s scientific endeavors vulnerable to political influence.” It also noted that the previous administration never took the steps required by the order itself to update internal Departmental Manuals or agency rules. 

Read the new secretarial order here


DOI Press Release

Interior Department Takes Steps to Strengthen Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking: Revokes Secretarial Order that improperly restricted agency’s use of science and data

Wednesday, March 3, 2021
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov 

WASHINGTON – The Interior Department today took steps to recommit to scientific integrity and empower the agency’s scientific and technical experts to use the best available science. Signed on Interior’s 172nd birthday and the 142nd birthday for the U.S. Geological Survey, Secretarial Order 3397 revokes Secretarial Order 3369 – falsely branded the “open science” rule – that imposed improper restrictions on what science and data could be considered in the Department’s policymaking.

“Science is at the heart of Interior’s mission – from protecting endangered species to conducting environmental assessments for energy projects,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “Today’s Order puts the evaluation and decision-making authority regarding scientific information back where it should be: in the hands of the scientists. It’s an important step toward restoring trust in government and strengthening scientific integrity at the Interior Department.”

Today’s Order initiates a review of all agency activities taken pursuant to SO 3369 and provides direction to the Department to comply with President Biden’s memorandum to advance scientific integrity.

The 2018 Secretarial Order was issued without due consideration and review by the Department’s career scientists and officials, or by the broader scientific community. Among the serious concerns with the Order’s directives, it hindered the Department’s ability to enter into contracts for cutting-edge research, and precluded the Department from utilizing sensitive information – e.g., regarding sacred sites or rare and threatened species – to inform complex policy decisions.

Acting Secretary de la Vega’s Order directs that scientific merit, not political interference, will guide agency decision-making; prevents the suppression or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results; and supports scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Interior leadership has begun a review of the scientific integrity programs within the Department and is re-invigorating Interior's Science Advisors’ Council.


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