Office of Government Ethics Proposed Rule Would Facilitate Federal Scientists Participating in Professional Society Leadership

By Steve Pierson posted 06-30-2011 13:57

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has issued a proposed rule in the May 3 Federal Register that would make it easier for federal statisticians to serve in ASA leadership and governance. The proposed rule, according to its summary,
would permit Government employees to participate in particular matters affecting the financial interests of nonprofit organizations in which they serve in an official capacity, notwithstanding the employees’ imputed financial interest."
President Elect Bob Rodriguez and Executive Director Ron Wasserstein submitted comments on behalf of ASA in support of the rule on June 28. (Comments accepted through July 5.) Citing the role of government statisticians in ASA governance and the difficulty the ASA Nominating Committee has experienced in finding government nominees, Rodriguez and Wasserstein write,
Without federal statisticians in its governance, the ASA would not be able to serve fully the needs of the government sector, since there would not be an active voice from that sector in our decision-making process. The ASA would also be deprived of the perspective of the government sector for its broader mission.

Furthermore, the rules precluding a federal scientist’s professional society activity hinder his/her ability to achieve the professional stature afforded by professional society leadership experience. Finally, such rules could dissuade scientists from entering federal service and/or prevent federal scientists from serving in high-profile professional society positions, thereby undermining the overall stature of an agency’s scientific work.
The OGE proposed rule follows the December memo from Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Holdren on science integrity that directed heads of administration departments and agencies to:
Allow full participation in professional or scholarly societies, committees, task forces and other specialized bodies of professional societies, including removing barriers for serving as officers or on governing boards of such societies.
See the January 3 blog entry, "Obama Administration Science Integrity Memo includes Good News for ASA Governance and Government Statisticians: More Steps Necessary."

While the OSTP and OGE actions are positive steps, further actions would also be beneficial. For example, changing the statute (18 U.S.C. 208(a)) that criminalizes official participation by federal officials on the boards of directors of outside organizations to accommodate scientists serving in professional society leadership would be another positive step (leaving in place other protections to take into account conflicts of interest.) Further guidance from the Office of Personnel Management to agencies regarding the service of federal scientists in professional society leadership and a government-wide guidelines for dealing with such service would also help.

Many organizations have written in support of this proposed rule. In addition to individually submitted comments like those of ASA, societies are also signing onto a group statement that could gather the support of more than 30 organizations. (Watch the Related Link/Comments space below for a link to that letter and, possibly, other updates.)
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07-06-2011 10:05

ASA joined with 30 other organizations in signing a 6/30 group statement supporting the OGE proposed rule: (Also linked in Related Links above.)