Although the CPSC is an independent agency, these principles are being adopted in the spirit of 2009 presidential memorandum on scientific integrity, which calls for “ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.” and the “Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, Subject: Scientific Integrity,”from John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, December 17, 2010.
This document sets forth the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC, Commission) general policies that implement the principles supporting the integrity of Commission staff’s scientific and technical work. These policies reflect: applicable law, the agency’s written directives, and agency practice.
The principles to support the integrity of the Commission staff’s scientific and technical work are:
- Open communication among scientists and technical staff within and outside the Commission is encouraged.
- Professional growth and development of CPSC’s scientific and technical staff are supported.
- The credibility of staff’s scientific and technical work is encouraged, supported, and recognized.
- Accountability and transparency are expected and supported in communicating to the public the results of scientific and technical work.
- Scientific and technical staff is expected to adhere to a professional code of ethics.
- Protections exist and are expected to be followed to shield staff from undue influence or suppression.
There are six CPSC directives in place that define the work of the Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction (EXHR) and offices over which EXHR has authority: the Directorate for Economic Analysis; the Directorate for Engineering Sciences; the Directorate for Epidemiology; the Directorate for Health Sciences; and the Directorate for Laboratory Sciences. These directives, 1000.25 through 1000.30, state verbatim the language of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), which describes the organization of the Commission and its function. While these directives do not address specific policies of the Commission, they do emphasize that scientific and technical work is the foundation upon which staff implements the mission of the CPSC to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury associated with the use of consumer products. Directive 1000.25 also emphasizes that EXHR “ensures that relevant technical, environmental, economic, and social impacts of projects are comprehensively and objectively presented to the Commission for decision”.
The policies, directives, and practices related to the principles of scientific integrity are described below:
- Open Communication Among Scientists Within and Outside the Commission
The CPSC supports open, honest communication throughout the development and execution of its scientific and technical work, including the interpretation of data and the development of staff recommendations to the Commission. Managers, supervisors, and team leaders are expected to encourage and facilitate open, honest, and respectful communication among staff. Airing novel approaches, minority opinions, and concerns about data limitations or interpretations is supported and encouraged. Avenues for open, honest discussion and for resolution of scientific or technical conflicts on issues are available. Staff is encouraged to communicate and collaborate, as appropriate, with scientists, engineers, and other scientific and technical experts within and outside the CPSC. In planning, holding, and participating in meetings with other scientific experts, staff follows the Government in the Sunshine Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as existing CPSC statutes, regulations (including the Commission’s meetings policy), directives and practices.
- Professional Growth and Development
The CPSC embraces a goal of encouraging its scientific and technical staff to maintain and develop its professional competency and credibility. Candidates for scientific and technical positions at the agency are selected based on the candidate’s scientific and technical credentials, knowledge, and experience. Scientific and technical staff are encouraged and expected to maintain their knowledge and skills. Attendance at scientific meetings is encouraged, as is specialized technical training. Staff is encouraged to present scientific and technical research findings at professional scientific meetings, to publish research findings in peer-reviewed scientific and technical journals, and to be members of editorial boards of scientific and technical publications. The CPSC recognizes the importance of full staff participation in scientific and technical professional societies, including being officers of or members on governing boards of such societies, as much as practicable, and within applicable government policies. The CPSC also recognizes the importance of staff’s receipt of honors and awards (including monetary awards) for their work, to the maximum extent practicable, and within applicable government policies.
- Credibility of Staff’s Work
The CPSC diligently uses a variety of ways to help ensure the credibility of its staff’s scientific and technical work. CPSC scientists and technical staff are encouraged to seek peer review of their work at many different levels, as appropriate. Such peer review may be within the CPSC from other CPSC scientists or from scientists affiliated with other federal government agencies, or from scientific or technical experts affiliated with organizations outside the federal government. Public input also may be sought, as appropriate. Staff also may use special scientific advisors to provide input to its scientific and technical work; such use must be conducted in accordance with existing Commission statutes, policies, and directives.
- Transparency and Accountability in Public Communication
The CPSC believes as a general principle that transparency in providing information to the public in a timely, user-friendly manner about its scientific and technical work, including activities and planned initiatives, promotes not only accountability to the public, but also credibility of its work. Staff is expected to comply with the Government in the Sunshine Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, as well as existing CPSC statutes, regulations (including the Commission’s meetings policy), directives and practices. Staff is expected to post its technical communications with Standards Development Organizations on the CPSC website for five days and its technical reports for 45 days, to give the public an opportunity to comment. The Commission promotes accurate, timely, and open relations between the agency’s scientific and technical staff and the press and other media, as it relates to staff’s scientific and technical work. After notifying and coordinating with the Director of the Office of Communications and other appropriate managers, staff scientists can participate in news media interviews to discuss their research methodologies and findings. Staff aims to communicate the results of its scientific and technical activities clearly, honestly, objectively, thoroughly, and accurately. Subject to the protections for pre-decisional work product addressed in this policy, public access to staff’s scientific and technical work will be made available in accordance with Commission policy and applicable law.
- Professional Code of Ethics
The Commission seeks to have all CPSC scientific and technical staff act in the interest of the advancement of scientific scholarship for sound decision making, by using the most appropriate and best available high-quality scientific and technical data and information to support the mission of the Commission. CPSC scientific and technical staff is expected to differentiate clearly among facts, personal opinions, assumptions, hypotheses, and professional judgment in reporting the results of scientific and technical activities. Staff also is expected to characterize associated uncertainties in using those results for decision making and in results shared with other scientists, decision makers, and the public. Staff is expected to work to help ensure that the data used or developed, as well as the conclusions, interpretations, and applications employed are of the highest quality and integrity possible under the circumstances. Staff is expected to adhere to appropriate quality assurance and quality control standards, to present all scientific information that is available, and not withhold information that might not support the conclusions, interpretations, and applications made. Contract work for CPSC staff also is expected to be held to these standards. CPSC scientists and technical staff are encouraged to welcome constructive criticism of its scientific and technical activities and to respond appropriately to peer-review of its work. CPSC scientific and technical staff also is expected to provide constructive, objective, and professionally valid peer-review of the work of others, free of any personal or professional jealousy, competition, nonscientific disagreement, or conflict of interest. Staff is expected to abide by the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.
- Protection from Undue Influence or Suppression
The work environment at the CPSC includes protection from inappropriate hindering or interference, or the appearance thereof, by anyone in the performance or activities of CPSC’s scientific and technical staff, or in the design, implementation, or interpretation of the scientific and technical work required to achieve the agency’s mission. The integrity of staff’s deliberative process also is to be guaranteed which means that staff cannot be required to disclose pre-decisional work product (such as preliminary drafts) at any point in time. Staff is protected from anyone, for nonscientific reasons, substantively altering or compromising staff’s scientific and technical findings, reports, and conclusions.
The policies discussed above implement the CPSC’s principles regarding scientific integrity and are intended to uphold and strengthen the scientific integrity of the work of CPSC’s scientific and technical staff.