NSTC Committee Seeks Input on Safe, Ethical, and Open Research Environments

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The National Science and Technology Council’s (NSTC) Joint Committee on Research Environments (JCORE) released a request for information (RFI) on Nov. 26 outlining the committee’s research priorities.

The RFI, stemming from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on JCORE’s behalf, calls for intelligence on the American research environment. OSTP is requesting information on possible partnerships between the Federal government, the private sector, academia, and philanthropic organizations with a specific emphasis “on ensuring that the research environment is welcoming to all individuals and enables them to work safely, efficiently, ethically, and with mutual respect, consistent with the values of free inquiry, competition, openness, and fairness.”

JCORE was established in May 2019 to balance research accountability and productivity with safety, inclusivity, integrity, and security, OSTP Chief of Staff Sean Bonyun wrote in the RFI. Four subcommittees within JCORE have been formed to meet this mission.

The Subcommittee on Rigor and Integrity in Research identifies cross-agency principles that enhance research integrity, rigor, reproducibility, and replicability. The subcommittee is tasked with exploring how Federal agencies and other stakeholders can work collaboratively to support those principles through transparency, training, incentives, and other initiatives.  The RFI requests information on how to ensure researchers are aware of ethical principles, provide incentives to encourage reporting of null or negative research findings, and align principles with international partners.

Another panel – the Subcommittee on Reducing Administrative burdens – searches for opportunities to coordinate agency policy and requirements related to the Federal grant process and conflicts of interest disclosures. In the RFI, the subcommittee requests responses on the balance between reporting and administrative requirements, and the impact of the 2011 revisions to public health services Federal conflict of interest regulations.

JCORE established the Subcommittee on Research Security to improve risk management, coordinate outreach, strengthen disclosure requirements, enhance oversight, and work with organizations that develop applicable best practices. This subcommittee takes a risk-based approach to strengthening research security, Bonyun wrote, and attempts to balance security with openness. The subcommittee would like information on misappropriation of taxpayer funds, how the U.S. can best partner with the research enterprise, and other best practices.

The Subcommittee on Safe and Inclusive Research Environments, the fourth subcommittee detailed in the RFI, shares best practices, case studies, and lessons learned from multi-sector research to promote a safe, inclusive, and equitable research environment. Specifically, the RFI is seeking information on how other organizations retain diverse researchers and mitigate sexual harassment.

The RFI is opening for comments through Dec. 23.

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