National Water Quality Lab 2022 Independent External Assessment
An external assessment of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) in Lakewood Colorado was initiated by the USGS Water Mission Area (WMA) following a finding of a loss of data integrity at NWQL by the USGS Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI) in March, 2021. The assessment examined both NWQL technical operations and workplace culture at the lab, with a goal of determining the root causes that led an NWQL analyst to falsify internal QA/QC samples.
Along with health and safety, scientific integrity is our highest priority across the USGS. It is fundamental to our mission and our reputation, and we do everything we can to maintain it and the quality of our work to the highest possible standards. We are government leaders in scientific integrity policy with an ongoing tradition of excellence codified in our Fundamental Science Practices.
We operate hundreds of laboratories with rigorous Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) procedures in place. Any breach in QA/QC procedures is not reflective of the USGS’s commitment to scientific excellence, integrity, and transparency and we will respond accordingly, with investigations and appropriate corrective measures.
The assessment’s findings are sobering, but by highlighting areas that need improvement, they provide an opportunity for the USGS to demonstrate its commitment to integrity. From the time we learned of the lapse of scientific integrity at the National Water Quality Lab (NWQL), we began implementing proactive measures to resolve issues at the lab and more broadly across the USGS, including the commissioning of this assessment itself. Consequently, many of the actions recommended in the report are already underway or planned.
The assessment confirmed that the vast majority of NWQL employees interviewed expressed a strong commitment to the USGS mission of delivering the highest quality data possible to our stakeholders and working collectively to address the problems identified in the assessment at the laboratory.