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Director's Corner

Dan Ashe served as FWS Director from June 2011 until January 2017. The following is an archive of blogs authored by Director Ashe during that time. This content is intended for historical reference only and not as a representation of current Service policy or opinion.

Maintaining Trust and Integrity in Our Work

Edward R. Murrow, one of history's most influential broadcast journalists, said:

     "To be persuasive, we must be believable;
      To be believable, we must be credible;
      To be credible, we must be truthful."

I have always felt that his words speak to several fundamental ingredients in the great tradition of success by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Scientific integrity is and must be a key compass point for the organization. Our credibility is grounded in our competency as a science-driven organization.

That is why strengthening our scientific capacity has been my highest priority as Service Director; why we have a strong code of scientific conduct; and why we have a process to investigate and correct issues of scientific integrity. 

As a science-driven organization, we have an obligation to foster an environment where the science we produce and use, and the process we employ to make science-based decisions, is robust and of the highest quality. When we do this, history confirms, our decisions stand the best chance of being seen as believable, credible and truthful – within and outside of the Service.

A recent incident involving employees in our Tulsa Ecological Field Office has been profoundly troubling to me personally; as I'm sure it is to every Service employee. The main point to understand in this context is that our scientific integrity process worked the way it is intended. At the recommendation of our Bureau Scientific Integrity Officer, Dr. Rick Coleman, we assembled an independent Scientific Integrity Review Panel, reporting to an independent Responsible Manager.  The recommendations resulting from that process have been implemented.  Most importantly, we have withdrawn all data and science products that were the subjects of these scientific integrity complaints, and are conducting an internal review to confirm that this data did not shape or influence our actions or decisionmaking. I’ve directed our National Conservation Training Center to complete a rigorous review of all Service training programs to ensure that they are providing employees with effective training and clear expectations concerning matters of scientific integrity.  I intend to schedule refresher and lessons learned discussions within the Service Directorate, and will encourage similar discussions within all levels of the organization.

Accompanied by experienced Human Resources professionals, and in consultation with the DOI Solicitor's Office, we also continue to investigate the allegations of supervisory misconduct, which fall outside the scope of the Department’s Scientific Integrity Policy. This effort is also under the wing of an independent Responsible Manager.  Our paramount goal in this two-phased process is to ensure that both the immediate corrective actions we take now, and any we implement going forward, are effective, appropriate and enduring. I will personally provide a full accounting of these actions to the Secretary, the Inspector General and Congress.

Our employees are the foundation of our conservation success.  Their truthfulness and credibility make us a believable, persuasive and effective organization.  We will continue to do everything we can to make sure that scientific inquiry is supported and encouraged across our organization.

On a personal note, I’d like to express my gratitude to the employees who raised these concerns. Their courage and dedication to scientific integrity has helped ensure that the Service continues to meet the highest standards. This brings to mind another Edward R. Murrow quote:

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty."

Our work is only as good as the trust placed in it by the public and our partners.  Leadership, sound supervision and teamwork all contribute to a healthy environment where rigorous scientific discourse occurs and constructive criticism is valued in making decisions.  I'm confident this is the environment that predominates within the Service today. I'm also confident that wherever it does not exist, employees will be empowered to take appropriate corrective action, as occurred in Tulsa.  As good scientists, and good public servants, that is our obligation.

With this move to be more scientifically focused, I urge you to make future decisions in conjunction with another primary focus - PRESERVATION. If you delegate with these key components in mind, I am certain that future generations will benefit exponentially.I am a mother of two small children with a background in law and environmental science. Despite my master's level education and the intimate teachings of my children, no one has summarized my feelings or thoughts as well as this saying; "we have not inherited the earth from our fathers...we have borrowed it from our children". Please remember the POWER of this saying when you make any future decisions regarding the protection of all plants and animals -specifically grey wolves. It is my dream to be able to have my children and my children's children enjoy the outdoors and all of its current magic.
# Posted By Kelly | 8/23/13 2:31 PM

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