[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 150 (Thursday, August 4, 2011)]
[Pages 47271-47274]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-19701]



Implementation of Scientific Integrity Principles: Draft Plan for 
Public Comment

AGENCY: National Science Foundation.

ACTION: National Science Foundation (NSF) Implementation of Scientific 
Integrity Principles: Draft Plan for Public Comment.


SUMMARY: On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum for the 
Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Scientific Integrity. 
Shortly thereafter the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) 
led an interagency task group to develop an implementation strategy, 
and NSF was represented on the task group. On December 17, 2010, the 
OSTP Director issued a Memorandum with implementation guidance (for 
copies of both memoranda, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/scientificintegrity).
    NSF is fully committed to its efforts to ensure that our processes 
will advance the goals articulated in the Memoranda. This report 
summarizes NSF practices both current and planned to maintain and 
enhance scientific integrity across our S&E community. The report is 
organized according to the major headings and topics of the December 
2010 OSTP Memorandum.

DATES: Comments on the report are welcome before September 6, 2011. 
Comments will be useful in shaping the agency's implementation. Please 
send comments to [email protected]. All comments received before 
the close of the comment period will be available for public 
inspection, including any personally identifiable or confidential 
business information that is included. Because they will be made 
public, comments should not include any sensitive information.


I. Foundations of Scientific Integrity In Government

    NSF works to maintain a culture of scientific integrity. Although 
NSF does not employ government scientists to conduct intramural 
research on behalf of the federal government, we do fund basic science 
and engineering research and education through awards to colleges and 
universities through the country. Consequently, we strongly believe 
that research results should be objective and not influenced by a 
potential awardee's financial interests or affiliations. We are one of 
only two agencies within the Federal Government that has an 
investigator conflict-of-interest policy that requires our grantee 
institutions to (1) Collect financial disclosure reports from 
investigators; (2) review financial disclosure reports; and (3) manage, 
reduce, or eliminate any conflicts of interest prior to the expenditure 
of any award funds.
    In addition to ensuring research results are not influenced by 
conflicts of interest, NSF has a thorough and rigorous conflict of 
interest merit review process. And we expect the scientists and 
engineers at NSF who conduct our merit review process and make funding 
decisions to adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct. This 
includes civil service employees and contractors; visiting scientists, 
engineers, and educators; and those working at NSF under the 
Intergovernmental Personnel Act.
    NSF's internal procedures (http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=manual15) summarize the various government conflicts 
rules that guide NSF staff.
    NSF staff who report information on potential violations of rules 
and regulations are protected from retaliation; NSF participates in the 
Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) 2302(c) Certification Program which 
allows federal agencies to meet the statutory obligation to inform 
their workforces about the rights and remedies available to them under 
the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and related civil service laws. 
(See: http://www.nsf.gov/od/odi/nofear/notice.jsp and http://www.osc.gov/outreachAgenciesCertified.htm.)
    Similarly, NSF awardees, whether current or prospective, also are 
expected to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct. All 
allegations of research misconduct are promptly reported to the Office 
of the Inspector General (OIG). (See: http://www.nsf.gov/oig/misconscieng.jsp; 45 CFR part 689 http://law.justia.com/us/cfr/title45/45cfr689_main_02.html).

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    NSF awardees are also subject to the responsible conduct of 
research requirement of the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Pub. L. 110-
69). In accordance with Section 7009, NSF requires awardees to provide 
appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical 
conduct of research to undergraduates, graduate students, and 
postdoctoral researchers who will be supported by NSF to conduct 
research. (For more information on NSF's implementation of Section 
7009, please see http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-19930.htm.)
    Facilitating the free flow of scientific and technological 
information and maintaining open communication are critical to NSF. The 
Foundation participates in the Administration's Open Government 
Initiative (http://www.nsf.gov/open). Through this initiative, NSF 
publishes high-value datasets such as information on Freedom of 
Information Act requests, Graduate Research Fellowship Award 
recipients, abstracts of all funded NSF awards, and NSF funding rates. 
Another way that NSF facilitates the free flow of information is 
through Research.gov (http://www.research.gov), a portal that provides 
information on research spending and results. Research.gov publishes 
summaries of results supported by NSF. For awards made effective 
January 2010, the Foundation requires investigators to submit a brief 
summary, prepared specifically for the public, on the nature and 
outcomes of their NSF-funded award (See Award & Administration Guide, 
Chapter II: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf11001/aag_2.jsp.)

II. Public Communications

    The Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA) is the 
authorized news media liaison for NSF. Within OLPA, the Public Affairs 
staff works to promote science, engineering and education research 
coverage in mainstream and targeted media, facilitating the timely 
release of accurate information. The overriding goal is openness and 
accessibility. In this section, NSF proposes a revised media policy as 

Media Policy: Purpose

    This document establishes NSF's media policy governing media 
communications including advisories, press releases, statements, 
interviews, news conferences, and other related media contacts. Federal 
public affairs offices have been established to facilitate the active 
dissemination of agency research results and to coordinate media and 
public relations activities. A principal goal of public affairs is to 
help NSF most efficiently achieve its agency mission through policy 
making based on sound and objective science.

Media Policy: Rights

    NSF-funded scientists and staff have the fundamental right to 
express their personal views, provided they specify that they are not 
speaking on behalf of, or as a representative of, the agency but rather 
in their private capacity. So long as this disclaimer is made, the 
employee is permitted to mention his or her institutional affiliation 
and position if this has helped inform his or her views on the matter.
    Employees have the right to review, approve, and comment publicly 
on the final version of any proposed publication that significantly 
relies on their research, identifies them as an author or contributor, 
or purports to represent their scientific opinion.

Media Policy: Responsibilities

    NSF's public affairs office is responsible for:
     promoting media attention on important scientific and 
institutional developments;
     coordinating and facilitating contact between journalists 
and the requested agency staff;
     providing both reporters and scientists with timely, 
accurate, and professional media assistance; and
     providing draft press releases or other public statements 
to agency scientists whose work is included, to assure the accuracy of 
scientific information being communicated.
    NSF employees are responsible for working with the agency's public 
affairs staff to make significant research developments accessible and 
comprehensible to the public.
    NSF employees are responsible for the accuracy and integrity of 
their communications and should not represent the agency on issues of 
politics or policy without prior approval from the public affairs 

Media Policy: Media and Public Interactions

    To help NSF public affairs best fulfill its responsibilities, 
agency employees should:
     Keep the public affairs office informed of any media 
interest or potential for interest in their work;
     Notify the public affairs office of impending media 
contacts and provide the public affairs office with a recap of the non-
confidential aspects of the media conversation afterward;
     Review drafts of press releases written by staff from the 
public affairs office both for their format and non-scientific content, 
as well as for the accuracy of scientific information being 
communicated; and
     Work with the public affairs office to review 
presentations or news conferences for their format and content to 
assure the accuracy of scientific information being communicated.
    NSF's public affairs officers should:
     Respond to all initial media inquiries as soon as 
possible, but seeking to respond within 30 minutes whenever possible;
     Do all they can to help reporters get the appropriate 
information needed for an article;
     Know the reporter's deadline to ensure timely response;
     Provide contact information where they will be available, 
even after hours, on weekends, and on holidays;
     Draft press releases and/or other multimedia products 
whenever warranted;
     Ensure a timely turnaround on press releases (within one 
week or less);
     Develop (or coordinate the development of) talking points 
in collaboration with the relevant experts for the release of 
scientific papers and other agency products; and
     Assure agency compliance with the No Fear Act (a federal 
law that holds agencies accountable for violations of employee 
protection laws) by informing employees of their rights under federal 
anti-discrimination and whistleblower protection laws.

Media Policy: Media Coverage

    In the spirit of openness, media representatives should be granted 
free access to open meetings of NSF advisory committees, open sessions 
of the National Science Board meetings, and other meetings open to the 
public and convened by NSF, as well as permission to reasonably use 
tape recorders, cameras, and electronic equipment for broadcast 
purposes in these public meetings.
    The public affairs officer coordinating a meeting may be present, 
or consulted, to undertake all responsibilities of a news media nature, 
including but not restricted to necessary physical arrangements.
    It shall be the responsibility of the public affairs office to 
cooperate fully with and accede to all reasonable requests from news 
media representatives. In instances where conflicts or 
misunderstandings may arise from the expressed views, wishes, or 
demands on the part of news media representatives, such matters should 

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referred at once to the head of NSF's Office of Legislative and Public 
Affairs for resolution.
    The head of NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs shall 
exercise full authority and assume responsibility for all decisions 
involving the news media and related activity.

Media Policy: Scope

    Below are examples of the types of information that NSF considers 
within and outside the scope of the policy guidelines. Neither of these 
lists should be considered comprehensive.
A. Covered Information
     NSF-funded science, engineering and education research 
papers, books, journal articles, reports, and similar materials, unless 
they have disclaimers to distinguish the research from NSF views and 
     NSF-generated reports, brochures, documents, newsletters, 
and audiovisual products;
     Oral information, including speeches, interviews, expert 
opinions only if representing NSF's views, official positions, or 
policies; and
     Science & Engineering Indicators reports of a statistical 
nature, which includes statistical analyses, trend data, etc., 
aggregated by the National Science Board and NSF's National Centers for 
Science & Engineering Statistics.
B. Information Not Covered
     Documents or multimedia materials not authored by NSF and 
not representing official views, including research supported by NSF 
     Opinions where the presentation makes it clear that what 
is being offered is personal opinion rather than fact or NSF's views;
     Information dissemination limited to government employees 
or agency contractors or grantees;
     Information intended solely for intra- or inter-agency use 
or sharing of government information, such as budget discussions, 
National Science Board and NSF deliberations, and other information 
that serves to assess the success in achieving the agency's objectives, 
programs, training materials, manuals, etc.; and
     Information intended to be limited to public filings, 
subpoenas, or adjudicative processes.

Media Policy: Types of Information Disseminated by NSF to the Public

    Annually, NSF produces hundreds of various types of outreach and 
communication materials and provides thousands of pages of Web content 
for access by the public. NSF's public affairs office works with 
university and institution public information offices to generate and 
distribute content.

Types of Dissemination

    NSF disseminates information through a wide range of methods, using 
more than one medium for the same information. In light of the 
Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, NSF strides to publish most of its 
print products in electronic, rather than paper, format.
     Print: Including limited quantities of NSF's Strategic 
Plan, Science & Engineering Indicators, National Science Board special 
reports, etc.;
     Electronic: Such as NSF Web sites, Listservs, e-mail, 
social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and FlickR;
     Audiovisual: Audio or video programs, media webcasts, 
slideshows, powerpoint presentations by the agency Director and Deputy 
Director; and
     Oral: Formal speeches, oral presentations, lectures, and 
interviews for publication or broadcast.

Media Policy: Guidelines for the Media

    NSF's public affairs office has established these guidelines. They 
are available online at http://nsf.gov/news/policies_for_media.jsp.
    When seeking information about NSF, or interviews with NSF 
leadership or staff, we ask that media contact Public Affairs for 
assistance. Our Public Affairs media team members, their contact 
information and the ``beats'' they cover are listed at http://www.nsf.gov/news/olpastaff.jsp.
    When you interview a member of NSF leadership or staff, a member of 
the media team may sit in/listen in on the interview. Our goal is to 
support the interviewee and to assist you with any follow-up 
information needed.
    If you contact us during normal business hours (East Coast time), 
you can expect a return call or message as soon as possible, within 30 
minutes of your call or message, or at the most, the same day. We will 
do all we can to respond to your query by your deadline.
    We will always provide you with accurate information and will work 
to put you directly in contact with the best expert to respond to your 
questions. Be aware that there are circumstances where the information 
we can provide is limited. These include details about possible or 
ongoing investigative work, pre-decisional budget data, and NSF 
personnel records.
    When we provide editorial content to media, as with our 
partnerships with LiveScience.com and U.S. News and World Report, the 
content is clearly labeled as such.
    We encourage you to make use of resources available on our Web 
site. Images and video in our press releases and Discovery feature 
stories are generally available for your use. Credit information and 
any restrictions on use will be listed with the image or video. Our 
Multimedia Gallery at http://www.nsf.gov/news/mmg/ offers images, 
videos and audio files, and is searchable by topic. Remember to check 
for credit information and any restrictions on use.
    Our National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) 
site at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/ provides useful statistics about 
the science and engineering enterprise, and links to the biennial 
Science and Engineering Indicators, published by the National Science 

III. Use of Federal Advisory Committees (FAC)

    NSF's scientific advisory committees provide advice and 
recommendations to NSF concerning support for science research and 
education. This may include advice on program management, overall 
program balance, and other aspects of program performance; on the 
impact of NSF research support and NSF-wide policies on the scientific 
community; and on potential science and research thrusts, long-range 
plans and partnership opportunities.
    Currently NSF invites suggestions for FAC membership on the NSF Web 
page (http://www.nsf.gov/about/performance/dir_advisory.jsp). NSF 
plans to revise the text on this page for consistency with the OSTP 
Memorandum. In addition, NSF plans to issue a Federal Register notice 
at least once a year to alert a wider audience to the NSF Advisory 
Committees. Since vacancies come up on an ad hoc basis, this Federal 
Register notice would cover NSF's scientific Advisory Committees and 
refer persons interested in serving as members or recommending members 
to the point of contact for the specific Committee.
    NSF provides biographical information for some but not all FAC 
members. NSF will ensure that the practice is consistent across the 
    Selection of FAC members is at the discretion of the Assistant 
Director/Office Head or some combination of these senior management 
officials. The NSF leadership plans to devote an annual senior 
management session to discuss expectations and best practices for FAC 
member selection.
    The NSF Designated Agency Ethics Official will provide copies of 
all Conflict of Interest waivers granted to FAC members to the 

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Designated Federal Official to be posted on the appropriate FAC Web 
    NSF will use the following disclaimer on all FAC reports, 
recommendations, and products, unless there is prior agreement to do 

    The function of Federal advisory committees is advisory only. 
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in 
this material are those of the Advisory Committee, and do not 
necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

IV. Professional Development of Government Scientists and Engineers

    NSF has a strong commitment to ensuring that its staff remains at 
the cutting edge of the nation's workforce by fostering a culture of 
continuous learning. To that end, NSF permits staff (including 
scientists and engineers) to pursue research and developmental 
activities related to NSF's mission and goals such as attending or 
giving presentations at conferences or involvement in committees on 
Government time.
    NSF also allows its staff to participate in any research or 
educational institution, scientific society, professional association 
or editorial board, provided written permission is obtained from the 
scientist's or engineer's supervisor or ethics counselor.

 V. Implementation

    NSF plans to develop a single, easily accessible Web site for 
Scientific Integrity with appropriate links and points of contact. NSF 
plans to follow the OSTP guidelines for Federal Advisory Committees as 
outlined in Section II above and will offer appropriate training to 
staff on implementation. These steps will be taken by December 31, 

    Dated: July 29, 2011.
Suzanne H. Plimpton,
Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation.
[FR Doc. 2011-19701 Filed 8-3-11; 8:45 am]