A senior Biden administration climate adviser was severely sanctioned by the nation’s most prestigious scientific body for ethical violations.
Jane Lubchenco, the deputy director for climate and environment at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, was sanctioned by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on August 8, Axios reported. Lubchenco’s sanction stemmed from a violation of the NAS’ code of conduct. Specifically, Lubchenco edited a paper that appeared in the NAS’ peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in 2020; but the paper did not use the most recent available data, and Lubchenco had a personal relationship with one of the researchers in violation of the journal’s editorial policies.
Section 3 of the NAS code of conduct states:
NAS members shall avoid those detrimental research practices that are clear violations of the fundamental tenets of research. Members should be fair and objective peer reviewers, maintain confidentiality when requested, promptly move to correct the literature when errors in their own work are detected, include all deserving authors on publications, and give appropriate credit to prior work in citations.
Lubchenco edited a research article advocating for the use of certain conservation tools in the global fishing industry, entitled “A global network of marine protected areas for food.” The article appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2020. But the paper was retracted in 2021 after it was revealed that the researchers used an old database to conduct their research, which resulted in the them overestimating their results.
“[W]e have been informed that the changes to our results arising from the data error have cast doubt over the outcome of the peer review process, ultimately leading to the retraction of this paper,” the researchers said in their retraction note. “We intend to submit a corrected version of the paper elsewhere.”
“The editors also note that the article’s editor, J.L., recently published a related paper with the article’s authors and has a personal relationship with one of the authors, both of which are disallowed by PNAS editorial policies,” PNAS editor-in-chief Mary Berenbaum wrote in the note. Axios adds that one of the researchers was Lubchenco’s brother-in-law.
In a statement Tuesday, Lubchenco said she accepted the sanctions. “I accept these sanctions for my error in judgment in editing a paper authored by some of my research collaborators — an error for which I have publicly stated my regret,” Lubchenco said, via Axios. In February, a group of Republican leaders sent a letter to the Biden administration expressing doubts about the integrity of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in light of Lubchenco’s history.
“We … encourage you to consider if Dr. Lubchenco should continue to be involved in developing a framework for the improvement of agency scientific integrity policies and practices when she has violated the very policies she is tasked with imposing on Federal agencies,” Republican ranking member of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Frank Lucas (R-OK), Environment Subcommittee ranking member Stephanie Bice (R-OK), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Jay Obernolte (R-CA), wrote in their letter. “If the executive branch cannot or will not uphold the practices of scientific integrity, then Congress will have to assume a greater role in oversight of these matters.”