The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has released its Scientific and Research Integrity Policy. The policy is designed to promote and ensure the objectivity and independence of the Department’s scientific endeavors. It lays out principles for maintaining and strengthening a culture of scientific validity and reliability. Below is an excerpt from the 11 page report. (View full PDF)
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The Department of Justice (Department or DOJ) is the Nation’s litigator and, as such, is responsible for the fair and efficient administration of justice in both criminal and civil matters. Department personnel – including officials, attorneys, law enforcement agents and employees engaged in scientific disciplines – are entrusted with awesome responsibilities and, in executing DOJ’s mission and their respective roles, must pursue, rely upon and present evidence that is well-founded in fact and veracity. This is particularly critical in the scientific arena, where the credibility of the evidence often relies upon the integrity of its handlers, examiners, experts and presenters. Investigations and prosecutions based in whole or in part upon forensic science must be based upon sound science – from the crime scene to the courtroom to post-conviction reviews and each step along the way. When science informs criminal investigations and prosecutions or forms the basis for the Department’s litigation position in a civil matter, it is vital that the information relied upon be credible.
In addition to serving as the lead federal law enforcement agency and the People’s representative in federal court, the Department is the custodian of pretrial detainees and convicted felons incarcerated in federal prisons. Detention and rehabilitation strategies and policies must flow from valid social science studies.
The Department is also at the forefront of scientific, technological and social science research. The Office of Justice Programs, through the National Institute of Justice, supports social science research on the causes of crime and the operations of the criminal justice system, engages in research in support of law enforcement safety and technological advances, and fosters research on the discovery, testing and advancement of forensic science methodologies and technologies. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collect and publish statistics on the level and the change in level of crime and the activities of the criminal justice system at the federal, state and local level that are relevant not only to the Department’s activities but to policy formation nationwide. The regulatory components within the Department also conduct research to inform policy and regulatory decisions. The value of this important work similarly relies upon the integrity of researchers, statisticians and scholars who gather data, interpret their results and report their findings.
It is the policy of the Department to implement and uphold the highest standards for ethics and integrity in all scientific, technological, research and scholarly activities. Department personnel engaged in these disciplines must act in accord with the high level of integrity expected by the public we serve. These employees must adhere to professional values and sound scientific and methodological practices when conducting and applying the results of science, technology, research and scholarship activities. This will ensure objectivity, clarity, validity, reproducibility and utility that are insulated from bias, fabrication, plagiarism, outside interference, censorship and inadequate procedural and information security.