Government rejects union’s claim for a Statement of Scientific Integrity
In enterprise agreement negotiations last week, bargaining agents for the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) rejected Professionals Australia's (PA) claim for a Statement of Scientific Integrity allowing scientists to give free and frank advice to their departments and the government of the day.
PA's scientist members care deeply about evidence-based facts and proper processes. Yet we know that mismanagement and errors in scientific understanding are, on the contrary, quite systematic and have been politicised in recent years. The APS needs a systematic process to ensure that scientific and engineering knowledge is considered or respected.
Professionals Australia Claim for Science Integrity:
- Professionals Australia proposed that scientists employed within the APS shall be able to give free and frank scientific advice to the Government and their departments based on evidence-based facts guided by the best science and data available to them.
- The APSC shall recognise that scientific and data driven evidence are central to the development of good policy and vital to be able to provide sound advice to the government of the day. Scientists in the APS should not be pressured to change or manufacture their evidenced based advice or findings for political reasons. Rather we proposed the APSC work with Professionals Australia to develop a scientific integrity statement that recognise the professional skill of scientists and engineers and prohibits improper political interference with evidenced based science.
This statement was written with extensive feedback from union members who want scientific integrity returned to the public service.
We proposed a claim that we felt was fair and reasonable. However, it is the first claim to be rejected by the Government. The APSC claims that existing policies adequately address scientific integrity, although Professionals Australia strongly disagrees.
After a forceful push by Professionals Australia, the APSC has conceded to relist the matter for further discussion.
The Commission has suggested it will reconsider its position if we can show them evidence or examples of where the current Department/Agencies policies and practices need to address our concerns around scientific integrity.
To win a Scientific Integrity Statement in the APS, there are three things you can do today:
Step One: Share your experience.
Email Professionals Australia at firstname.lastname@example.org
to provide examples of instances where:
- you have been asked to change your scientific advice
you have been asked to use practices that are not scientifically sound
- you have not been able to follow a proper scientific process
- errors in scientific understanding have been used in a policy, or
- science has been politicised in your Department/Agency
Your union will treat these examples anonymously, and no names or identifying information will be disclosed in discussions with APSC. The information will be spoken to show the APSC that this is a genuine issue for scientists in the APS and not something that can be so easily dismissed.
Step Two: Talk to your colleagues.
Share this email amongst your teams, scientist networks and co-workers. The more people who know about this issue, the more pressure we can apply on the Government to change its position and negotiate a Science Integrity Statement.
Step Three: Join your union
Professionals Australia (formerly APESMA) is the union for scientists, engineers, IT, managers and professionals in Australia. We represent your interests in the APS and your voice in bargaining. Our log of claims seeks to target the specific issues impacting our members and improve pay, conditions, and salary structures for professionals in the public service.
Unions with strong memberships win better outcomes for all professionals. But those who are not members weaken the collective bargaining strength of your union.
If you have any questions about this update, email ACT Director Kathleen Studdert at email@example.com