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Scientific Integrity Policy

Scientific Integrity Policy

Category: Human Resources
Application: All employees and volunteers
Responsible Office: President's Office

Purpose

To establish guidelines for the ethical selection and presentation of scientific knowledge through Let’s Talk Science programs and platforms.

Let’s Talk Science operates in a rapidly changing research environment and the organization’s goal when developing programs and resources is to use the most current science that is supported by a majority of the scientific community and to reflect a balance of diverse scientific views.

Let’s Talk Science’s educational mission is underpinned by a commitment to provide thorough, balanced and up-to-date scientific information. We are passionate defenders of the importance of scientific understanding and inquiry and are committed to operating with transparency, presenting content founded on scientific research, in unbiased ways. We understand that scientific inquiry builds knowledge and that as information grows, our knowledge of a particular topic can evolve and sometimes change. Our goal is to develop critical thinkers who have the tools and information to form evidence-based opinions. Therefore, we typically refrain from taking a position or presenting an opinion on policy issues that emerge from scientific discovery and debate.

Definitions

Scientific Integrity – the condition that occurs when persons… adhere to accepted standards, professional values, and practices of the relevant scientific community. Adherence to these standards ensures objectivity, clarity, and reproducibility, and utility of scientific and scholarly activities and assessments and helps prevent bias, fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, outside interference, censorship and inadequate procedural and information security. (Scientific Integrity Consortium, Feb 2019).

Employee Responsibilities

Employees and volunteers taking part in a Let’s Talk Science activity must disclose any potential conflicts of interest to Let’s Talk Science representatives in advance. Such potential conflicts of interest are not in themselves necessarily a barrier to working with Let’s Talk Science but must be publicly disclosed where relevant.

The content of the programs and resources that we provide is guided by the best judgment of our staff in consultation with leading experts in the fields we cover. While our funders’ evidence-based interests may have legitimate roles to play in influencing aspects of our content, those roles should not interfere with scientific integrity. Similarly, any modification or customization of a program’s scientific content based on the needs or beliefs of a school or community group must not contradict the consensus of leading experts in the field. When modifications concern omission of part of the material (example: not including a discussion of birth control in a workshop about hormones), staff and volunteers will use their best judgment to decide whether the omission undermines the value of presenting the content.

Any concern that these principles are in danger of being violated, either directly by a supporter or by a fellow employee acting in that supporter’s interests, should be brought to the attention of your manager or, if necessary, using the steps outlined in Let’s Talk Science’s Whistleblower policy.

Practices and Procedures

Best practices to support integrity principles

  • Include statement of scientific integrity in all partnership and funding agreements.
  • When an agreement includes a focus on a specific community and offering them access to our programs, based on a stakeholder’s interest, use language such as “offering programming”, “every effort will be made”, “could substitute a nearby and similar community” should be used. Ensure that while we will make efforts to promote our activities and programming, the supporter is aware that we are unable to guarantee uptake within a community.
  • In developing content for programs and resources, be specific whenever possible about which study, expert or body of experts supports statements being made.
  • When providing a speaking or writing opportunity to a funder or other guest, provide them with an appropriate version of these guidelines. Introduce the guest speaker clearly identifying their affiliation... Where a speaker or writer’s affiliation could present a conflict of interest it must be acknowledged. This would also be applicable to guests participating in keynotes, panels and debates.
  • When creating educational resources, members of the Digital Content Development team are careful to use credible sources for information. All content is reviewed by multiple members of the Digital Content Development team for scientific accuracy and potential bias. In cases of disputed information or contentious topics, the Digital Content Development team will engage with volunteers or external subject matter experts to seek guidance on the most appropriate, accurate, and unbiased way to approach the topic. For select resources (such as action project resources and books), the Digital Content Development team will work with external subject matter experts during the development process to validate content. After publication, each resource is periodically reviewed to ensure that content remains accurate and up to date scientifically, and updated accordingly. Finally, if any users flag content in a resource as being potentially incorrect or biased, the Digital Content Development team reviews that content and the comments and, if necessary, will update that resource.

How do Let’s Talk Science’s stakeholders' influence our work?

Let’s Talk Science is grateful to all of our supporters – stakeholders, partner organizations and donors - for their contributions.

While our supporters often contribute to defined projects/program areas where our educational mission matches their own, Let’s Talk Science holds to a core principle that any support received in no way influences or shapes the nature of the information, opinions and points of view presented in our programming or in the content of our resources. Specifically, in alignment with the accepted ethics of both journalism and philanthropy, funded topics must be broadly framed and supporters – or their employees - are not to participate in or influence editorial activities; such as, commissioning particular writers, content or editing new and existing content developed by Let’s Talk Science. That said, employees of donor and stakeholder organizations are welcome – and invited - to take part in other Let’s Talk Science activities in a volunteer capacity.

Examples of unacceptable influence:

  • Removing a part of an article, activity, or other pieces of content out of concern it will cast a stakeholder in a bad light.
  • Choosing not to cover a specific topic out of concern, it will cast a stakeholder in a bad light.
  • Publishing an article or designing an activity whose purpose is to support a policy. We can describe the science that is relevant to particular policy decisions but should not explicitly recommend or endorse particular policy choices based on that science.

Examples of acceptable situations:

  • Choosing to cover a specific topic, in a neutral, scientifically-based point of view, because of stakeholder interest in funding this effort.
  • Publishing career profiles related to a funder, as part of a diverse and balanced array of career profiles.
  • Editing a career profile to focus on objective descriptions of the career rather than expressing a personal endorsement.
  • Selecting a specific community and offering them access to our programs, based on a funder’s interest in supporting that community.
  • Providing a speaking opportunity to a funder.

A broader discussion of our guiding principles of scientific integrity can be found in the Gift Acceptance Policy.

Date Adopted: 01/19/2021   Last Modification Date: 01/19/2021 Last Reviewed Date: 01/19/2021