U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY DIRECTIVE
SURVEY MANUAL CHAPTER – PROGRAM SERIES
Issuance Number: 500.25
Subject: Scientific Integrity
Issuance Date: 3/7/2022
Expiration Date: 3/2/2026
Responsible Office: Office of Science Quality and Integrity
Instruction: This Survey Manual (SM) chapter updates SM 500.25, Scientific Integrity, dated July 23, 2015.
Approving Official: /s/ Roseann Gonzales-Schreiner
Deputy Director for Administration and Policy
1. Purpose. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the scientific activities it conducts and that are conducted on its behalf. The USGS prohibits and will not tolerate loss of integrity in the planning, performance, use, or communication of scientific activities and their results. This SM chapter updates the USGS scientific integrity policy (including the scientific code of conduct and procedures for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating allegations of scientific misconduct) and provides guidance for implementing and complying with the Department of the Interior (DOI), Departmental Manual (DM) chapter 305 DM 3, Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities, the Scientific Integrity Procedures Handbook, and the Handbook Appendices. USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) requirements partially implement this chapter and support the scientific integrity of USGS activities.
A. This SM chapter applies to all USGS employees, including political appointees (hereafter employees) and volunteers, including emeriti, when they use, engage in, supervise, manage, or influence scientific activities in making and supporting DOI and Bureau policies, management, and regulatory decisions or when they publicly communicate information about scientific activities.
B. Contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, grantees, and other outside parties who assist with developing or applying the results of scientific and scholarly activities must comply with the principles contained within this chapter and 305 DM 3 (Section 3.10).
A. Federal Policy on Research Misconduct (65 Code of Federal Regulations, (CFR) 76260-76264)
B. Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (5 CFR 2635)
C. 305 DM 3, Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities
E. 370 DM 752, Discipline and Adverse Actions
G. SM 502.10, USGS Authorship of Scientific Information Products
H. SM 205.18, Authority to Approve Information Products
I. Office of Science and Technology Memo on Scientific Integrity, December 17, 2010
K. Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct (305 DM 3.7)
L. Whistleblower Protection Act statutes and related directives
M. 470 DM 1, Communications Policy – General Policy and Procedures
N. SM 500.5, USGS News Release and Media Relations Policy
P. SM 370.734.1, Anti-Harassment Policy and Implementing Procedures
Q. SM 431.1, Records Management Roles and Responsibilities
A. General. The USGS will ensure that all its employees, volunteers, contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, grantees, and other outside parties are aware of their obligation to abide by this policy and the DOI policy 305 DM 3.
B. Privacy and Confidentiality of Scientific Integrity Activities. The USGS reviews or performs inquiries on allegations of scientific misconduct or losses of scientific integrity in a manner that protects, as much as possible, any individual who makes an allegation of scientific misconduct or loss of scientific integrity, the subject of such allegation and witnesses. The USGS conducts reviews that are fair and timely and in accordance with 305 DM 3. Throughout the review and fact finding, all employees involved in the inquiry must maintain confidentiality and protect the person who submitted the allegation, the subject, and witnesses to the extent permissible under law.
C. Protection from Reprisal for Reporting Scientific Misconduct. The USGS ensures that employees and volunteers, who, in accordance with this chapter, report an allegation of a loss of scientific integrity or participate in scientific integrity activities, are protected from and are not subject to reprisal or retribution as mandated under the Whistleblower Protection statute and directives.
D. Prohibiting Political Interference. The USGS prohibits political interference, or the appearance of such, in the planning, execution, supervision, management, or communication of scientific activities, including in USGS scientific findings and science information products.
E. Integrity of USGS Science. The USGS is committed to the responsible conduct of research and the prevention of suppression, delay, or distortion of scientific or technological findings, data, information, conclusions, or technical results through its scientific integrity and FSP requirements.
F. Diversity and Inclusion. The USGS supports scientists and researchers of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds. The USGS is committed to providing an environment of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access to all scientists and researchers and supporting staff.
5. Definitions. In addition to the definitions below, refer to 305 DM 3 (Section 3.5) for definitions to other terms related to the integrity of scientific activities to the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct.
A. Scientific Activities. Activities that employ the scientific method for inventorying, monitoring, experimenting, studying, researching, and/or modeling. These activities include matters covered by any of the physical, biological, cultural, or social sciences, and may include matters such as landscape architecture, engineering, mathematics, and statistics that employ the scientific method. These activities also include intellectual endeavors involving inventorying, monitoring, experimentation, study, research, modeling, and assessments conducted in a manner specified by standard protocols and procedures in culturally focused disciplines such as history, archeology, ethnography, architecture, and landscape architecture. Scientific activities include study conception; experimental design; work planning; data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation; writing and preparation of scholarly content; and production and dissemination of scientific information products.
B. Loss of Scientific Integrity. A significant departure from the accepted standards, professional values, and practices of the relevant scientific community, including (for DOI employees and covered outside parties) the DOI Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct and departmental standards for the performance of scientific or scholarly activities. Improperly using scientific information (including fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism of science) for decision making, policy formulation, or preparation of materials for public information activities, can constitute a loss of scientific integrity. Failing to comply with FSP policies can also constitute a loss of scientific integrity. Loss of scientific integrity negatively affects the quality or reliability of scientific information and can seriously impact the credibility and reputation of the USGS and the DOI.
C. Fabrication. Making up data or results and recording or reporting them. Fabrication does not include documented use of modeling or statistical techniques.
D. Falsification. Manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
E. Plagiarism. The appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. Included in the concept of plagiarism is self-plagiarism, the reuse word for word of large portions of previously published text without citation to the previously published work.
F. Scientific Misconduct. Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing scientific activities, or in the products or reporting of the results of these activities. Scientific misconduct does not include an honest error or differences of opinion.
G. Research Record. The record of data or results that embody the facts resulting from scientific inquiry and includes, but is not limited to, research proposals, laboratory records (both physical and electronic), data archives, progress reports, abstracts, theses, oral presentations, internal reports, and journal articles.
H. Professional Judgment. An authoritative evaluation that is characterized by or conforms to the technical and ethical standards of a discipline and requires specialized knowledge or applicable academic preparation.
I. Conflict of Interest. Any personal, professional, financial, or other interests of those covered by this policy and/or their immediate family members that is prohibited by an applicable law or policy, which may include Federal ethics requirements, applicable standards issued by the Office of Government Ethics, Federal acquisition requirements, and prevailing practices of the National Academy of Sciences as adopted by the Office of Management and Budget.
J. Retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer, supervisor, or manager takes a materially adverse action because an individual made a protected disclosure, including having reported a scientific integrity concern or aided in an investigation of a scientific integrity concern1. Retaliation includes actions taken that would dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in the scientific integrity process.
K. Political Interference. Political interference is the attempt to gain partisan or political advantage or outcomes by shaping the production of science, science information products, or communication about science information products.
A. USGS Director. The Director of the USGS is responsible for providing leadership on scientific integrity, which includes ensuring employees and volunteers are aware of their responsibilities for compliance with this policy and with 305 DM 3 and ensuring contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, and grantees are aware of their responsibilities related to scientific integrity as detailed in their contract, agreement, or memorandum of understanding.
B. Deputy Director for Administration and Policy. The USGS Deputy Director for Administration and Policy acts on a request from the Office of Science Quality and Integrity (OSQI) to form a Scientific Integrity Review Panel (SIRP) and provides resources to establish the SIRP. The USGS Deputy Director for Administration and Policy appoints a Coordinating Manager when requested by the OSQI for scientific integrity inquiries.
C. Executive Leadership Team (ELT). ELT Members ensure implementation of this policy within their areas of responsibility and work with the Bureau Scientific Integrity Officer as needed to implement this policy. They collaboratively work with the USGS Director and Deputy Directors as needed to ensure activities related to compliance with this policy are carried out in a consistent manner throughout the Bureau. The ELT monitors for political interference in USGS science processes or products. ELT members are expected to discuss political interference or other scientific integrity concerns with the OSQI for appropriate guidance and follow-up. When concerns pertain to the USGS Director or Departmental personnel, the OSQI will report the concern to the Departmental Scientific Integrity Officer (DSIO) and/or the Office of Inspector General for follow-up actions, as appropriate.
D. Office of Scientific Quality and Integrity or OSQI. The OSQI provides oversight to enhance the integrity, quality, and health of USGS science. The OSQI is also responsible for implementing this chapter as it pertains to the USGS and maintaining records of the scientific integrity allegation process. The OSQI will evaluate the state of scientific integrity at USGS through surveys or other mechanisms. In addition, the OSQI Director is responsible for:
(1) Keeping the USGS Deputy Director for Administration and Policy informed on the status of the implementation of this chapter and requesting or monitoring internal and external reviews of scientific integrity within USGS science programs (to include program evaluation and status reports).
(2) On behalf of the USGS Director, appointing the Bureau Scientific Integrity Officer, a career scientist within the OSQI.
(3) Ensuring the independence of scientific integrity investigations and processes by providing support and coordination across the bureau to the BSIO when needed.
(4) Working with the Chief Scientist, the Mission Area(s), and the Region(s) to address any concerns on science quality and/or integrity following review and/or inquiry into a scientific integrity allegation.
(5) Ensuring that Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) are appointed by a career scientist in the OSQI per SM 502.1.
(6) Convening an Advisory Committee for Science Quality and Integrity to provide advice to the bureau on science quality and integrity matters.
E. Bureau Scientific Integrity Officer (BSIO). The BSIO is responsible for implementing this chapter as it pertains to the USGS and maintains the independence and transparency as well as the record of the scientific integrity allegation process, keeping the OSQI Director and OSQI Deputy Director informed on the status of the implementation of this chapter. The BSIO provides counsel and advice on matters of scientific integrity, which includes fostering effective communication as an intermediary and source of information and provides advice and guidance on the scientific integrity policy. The BSIO processes formal complaints consistent with this chapter, including requesting a SIRP, if needed, recommending the membership of the SIRP, and informing the DSIO of the status of scientific integrity complaints. The BSIO also serves on the DOI Scientific Integrity Council as the Vice Chair and recommends appropriate changes in scientific policy or practice to the DSIO.
F. Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs). Depending on the content and type of science product to be released, Bureau approval authority is delegated to BAOs in the OSQI (SM 205.18). BAOs in the OSQI ensure that USGS standards for scientific and editorial quality are followed by confirming that appropriate FSP requirements are met in accordance with SM 502.4. BAOs conduct consistent and uniform approval practices across the Bureau.
G. Scientific Integrity Review Panel (SIRP). When requested, a SIRP will be formed to objectively examine issues related to scientific integrity and prepare a report of their findings to the BSIO.
H. Departmental Scientific Integrity Officer or DSIO. The DSIO provides Department-wide leadership for scientific integrity and determines which bureau’s BSIO will receive allegations. The DSIO will serve as the Scientific Integrity Officer for complaints involving both the USGS and another bureau. See 305 DM 3.6K for a complete list of DSIO responsibilities.
I. Departmental Scientific Integrity Coordinators. At the request of the DSIO, the OSQI Director appoints Departmental Scientific Integrity Coordinators, career scientists in the OSQI. Coordinators provide expert, independent advice and counsel on matters of scientific integrity to the DSIO, the BSIOs across the Department, and the OSQI Director in fulfilling responsibilities under policy (305 DM 3), including maintaining consistency across the Department; implementing the scientific integrity program through processing complaints; providing advice and counsel; working with external stakeholders and partners; developing and delivering scientific integrity training; serving as the Executive Secretariat for the DOI Scientific Integrity Council; and maintaining the public DOI scientific integrity website to promote transparency in scientific integrity findings.
J. USGS Human Capital Office. The USGS Human Capital Office (HCO) has responsibility for providing a copy of this policy to new employees and ensuring that all new employees sign an acknowledgement that they have received a copy. This acknowledgment should be retained in the “temporary” (i.e., USGS) section of employees’ electronic Official Personnel Files. The HCO consults with the OSQI and bureau managers and supervisors on appropriate actions concerning the results of scientific integrity inquiries.
K. Coordinating Manager. Upon appointment by the Deputy Director of Administration and Policy, the Coordinating Manager works with the DSIO/BSIO, the DOI Office of the Solicitor (SOL), and any other offices, as required, to provide information relevant to the specific inquiry. When requested by the DSIO/BSIO, the Coordinating Manager will assist with securing all original records and materials relevant to the inquiry; and obtain access to all original records and materials relevant to the inquiry, including these items from the subject(s) and the complainant.
L. Managers and Supervisors. As appropriate, USGS Managers and Supervisors consult with the DSIO, BSIO, Deputy Ethics Counselor, Administrative Office or Contracting Office, Office of Inspector General (OIG), and SOL. Managers and Supervisors will mitigate and prevent future loss of scientific integrity using lessons learned from a finding under this chapter and ensure appropriate administrative and disciplinary action is taken in accordance with 370 DM 752 and collective bargaining agreements, if applicable. Managers and Supervisors also ensure that all contracts, written agreements, cooperative agreements, grants, permits, and leases covered by the scope of 305 DM 3 and in their purview include the requirements of 305 DM 3 and this policy in the performance work statement. Managers and Supervisors also comply with requests from the DSIO or BSIO to obtain and secure all original records and materials as warranted by the scientific integrity preliminary reviews and inquiries.
M. USGS Employees and Volunteers. All USGS employees and volunteers must comply with this chapter, 305 DM 3, the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct, and FSP requirements. They are responsible for reporting knowledge of losses of scientific integrity or scientific misconduct that are planned, imminent, or have occurred to the DSIO or BSIO.
N. Contractors, Cooperators, Partners, Permittees, Lessees, Grantees, and other Outside Parties. Contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, grantees, and other outside parties who assist with developing or applying the results of scientific and scholarly activities must comply with the principles contained within this chapter and 305 DM 3.
7. USGS Code of Scientific Conduct. The USGS adopts and follows the DOI Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct. Inquiries about the code of scientific conduct specific to USGS activities should be directed to the BSIO. For inquires related to conflicts of interest, the BSIO will coordinate with the Departmental Ethics Office, as appropriate.
8. Procedures for Reporting and Resolving Allegations Regarding Loss of Scientific and Scholarly Integrity. The USGS is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the scientific activities it conducts or are conducted on its behalf. The bureau prohibits and will not tolerate loss of integrity in the performance of scientific and scholarly activities or in the application of science and scholarship in decision making. Anyone who has concerns about an issue of scientific integrity at the USGS may contact the BSIO, who has responsibility to foster effective communication and act as a trusted and confidential intermediary and source of information, advice, and guidance on scientific and scholarly integrity.
A. Reporting an Allegation. Procedures to follow for reporting and submitting formal allegations of scientific and scholarly misconduct with respect to USGS employees, volunteers, contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, and grantees are found in 305 DM 3, Section 3.8 (A) and the Scientific Integrity Procedures Handbook, Chapter II. Allegations should be submitted to the BSIO or the Office of the Executive Secretariat and Regulatory Affairs (OES). A formal allegation of scientific misconduct must be in writing and include all information listed in the DOI Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct (305 DM 3).
B. Receipt and Processing of an Allegation.
(1) The detailed process to follow after receipt of an allegation is outlined in 305 DM 3, Section 3.8 (B-H).
(2) Throughout the allegation/inquiry process, confidentiality will be maintained and identities of the subject of the allegation, their organization, the person submitting the allegation, and witnesses will be protected to the extent permissible under law. The BSIO will retain the assistance of USGS subject-matter experts or other experts, as appropriate. The BSIO will base decisions regarding losses of scientific integrity on facts and professional judgement.
C. Distributing a Report of Inquiry (ROI). Upon completion of the ROI, the BSIO must inform the OES that the finding and record are complete; close the case; and distribute a copy of the ROI to the USGS Director, the USGS Deputy Directors, the OES, the OSQI Director, the Chief Scientist, the Chief of Staff, the cognizant ELT Member(s), and the SOL. The BSIO will include within the ROI any recommendations (if appropriate) for how the scientific record may be corrected and/or if any science quality issues need to be addressed by management (even if no misconduct is determined).
D. Reconsideration of a BSIO Finding. The subject(s) may file a request for reconsideration to present new relevant material information about the findings of fact or determination. The subject(s) must submit the request to the OES no later than 14 calendar days after receiving the notice of the finding. Refer to 305 DM 3, Section 8.G. for additional procedures on submitting a reconsideration request.
9. Participation as an Officer or Member on the Board of Directors of Professional Societies or other non-Federal Organizations. The USGS encourages the enhancement of scientific and scholarly integrity through engagement with the communities of practice represented by professional societies. USGS employees are encouraged to participate in outside professional organizations to enhance their professional development, especially when that participation advances the DOI and USGS missions, programs, and operations. USGS scientists, scholars, and other professionals should engage in scientific, scholarly, and other activities with these professional networks in accordance with the guidelines found in 305 DM 3, Section 3.9, and the Scientific Integrity Procedures Handbook, Chapter V, and related Appendices.
10. Scientific Activity Requirements for Contractors, Cooperators, Partners, Permittees, Lessees, Grantees, and Other Outside Parties.
A. The USGS must assure scientific activity and information being completed by contractors, cooperators, partners, permittees, lessees, grantees, and other outside parties meet scientific integrity requirements of this policy to ensure that the science provided to USGS is high quality and trustworthy. USGS offices responsible for acquisitions, financial assistance agreements, permits, or leases must, in consultation with the Office of Acquisition and Property Management, insert standardized language (refer to the Scientific Integrity Procedures Handbook, Chapter IV) into any contract or agreement that includes activities covered under this policy. The language must include a statement requiring adherence to this policy or its equivalent as provided by their organization or State law. Applicable acquisitions and financial assistance agreements include, but are not limited to, those for minerals and biological assessments; mapping; digitizing and mapping analysis; research and development; wildlife surveys; modeling efforts; scientific studies; and information synthesis. Program Managers (PM)/Contracting Officer Representatives (COR) have ultimate responsibility for determining whether or not the scientific integrity statement is applicable to be included in a particular statement of work (SOW).
B. The scientific integrity statement to include in SOWs if applicable is as follows: “Scientific integrity is vital to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) activities under which scientific research, data, summaries, syntheses, interpretations, presentations, and/or publications are developed and used. Failure to uphold the highest degree of scientific integrity will result not only in potentially flawed scientific results, interpretations, and applications but will damage the USGS’s reputation and ability to uphold the public’s trust. All work performed will comply with the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Integrity of Scientific and Scholarly Activities Policy (305 DM 3, available at https://www.doi.gov/elips/browse) and the USGS Scientific Integrity Policy (SM 500.25, available at https://www.usgs.gov/about/organization/science-support/survey-manual).”
C. As stated in the DOI and USGS scientific integrity policies, contractors may be required to initiate inquiries into allegations of scientific misconduct. Results of the contractor’s inquiry or any other correspondence regarding allegations of misconduct shall be provided in writing to the Contracting Officer at a mutually agreeable date along with the following statement: “I, as a duly authorized agent of (insert name of company), attest that the information provided herein is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge.”
D. Failure to comply with the DOI and USGS scientific integrity policies, including failing to conduct and/or truthfully report a requested investigation, may result in the Federal Government exercising any available remedy including, but not limited to, the remedies specified in Section 3.8 of the DOI chapter 305 DM 3 and Section 8 of this SM chapter.
E. If a SOW is received for one of the aforementioned acquisition topics without the scientific integrity statement (in Section 10.B), the Contracting Officer should discuss with the PM/COR whether or not the scientific integrity statement is applicable and must be included.
11. Retaliation. Retaliation against employees and applicants for participating in the scientific integrity process is prohibited and will not be tolerated by the USGS. Retaliation is covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (Public Law 101-12) and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-199) which requires that an individual make a protected disclosure. Protected disclosures include participating in or cooperating with the review of scientific integrity allegations. Whistleblower protections can be handled by the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, and others.
12. Avoidance of Political Interference. Inappropriate political interference in the planning, execution, supervision, management, or communication of scientific activities, including as this relates to USGS scientific findings and science information products, is not permitted. In accordance with USGS FSP requirements, supervisors, Bureau Approving Officials (BAOs) in the OSQI and ELT members each play a role in protecting against political interference. FSP establishes requirements for how USGS science is carried out and how resulting information products are developed, reviewed, approved, and released, including ensuring that BAOs of new science information products are appointed by a career scientist in OSQI (per SM 502.1). Concerns regarding political interference in information products are most likely to be noted by those involved in executing FSP, including supervisors. These concerns can be reported through the management chain or, when political interferences appear to be causing a loss of scientific integrity, through the scientific integrity process. The ELT in their role of monitoring for political interference in USGS science processes or products may receive notice of concerns from subordinate employees. When political interference in science cannot be promptly halted through the actions of an ELT member, ELT members have a duty to report political interference or other scientific integrity concerns to the OSQI and/or to the BSIO/DSIO, as appropriate.
13. Integrity in Public Science Communications. USGS scientists are encouraged to speak with the public and the media about scientific and technical matters based on their work or in their areas of expertise in compliance with DOI and USGS media and communications policies (refer to SM 500.5). Policies on media and communications must be consistent with the December 17, 2010, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum on scientific integrity. In no circumstance may USGS public affairs officials ask or direct USGS scientists to alter scientific findings. Suppression or the altering of scientific results in science communications may constitute a loss of scientific integrity.
14. Professional Development and Advancement of Scientists. The December 17, 2010, OSTP memorandum on Scientific Integrity directed agencies to establish policies for the professional development of government scientists and engineers. The professional development and advancement of scientists are key components to help achieve the USGS mission. Managers are encouraged to provide scientists with opportunities to engage with peers through professional societies and professional meetings; present research to the broader scientific, tribal, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education communities; nominate scientists for USGS, DOI and professional awards; and perform outreach and engagement to diverse communities.
15. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in Addressing and Strengthening Scientific Integrity. Policies related to research misconduct, research integrity, and research security are essential to support scientific integrity; however, they are not sufficient to ensure the integrity of science. Equally important are policies to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the scientific workforce and to create safe workspaces that are free from harassment. Similarly, scientific integrity entails greater transparency into the research process and its outputs. Open science policies and practices, in accordance with USGS FSP, help to ensure that publications, data, and other outputs of USGS funded research are readily available to other researchers, innovators, students, and the broader public, including underserved communities. OSQI and the BSIO place a high priority on reviewing potential scientific integrity policy violations that have a disproportionate impact on underrepresented groups or weaken the equitable delivery of USGS programs.
16. Integrity in Advice from Federal Advisory Committees. Products, reports, and recommendations to the USGS from Federal Advisory Committees are the findings of the Committee, not the USGS, and are not subject to Bureau revision. Committee membership is determined by career USGS officials based upon best practices, as well as applicable statutes and regulations, including ensuring broad diversity in representation.
17. Culture of Science Quality and Scientific Integrity. The USGS will support a culture of science quality and scientific integrity and will survey USGS employees to evaluate the scientific integrity enterprise and better understand attitudes, opinions, and trends on a biennial basis. Survey results will be reported to the USGS Director and will subsequently be available to USGS employees. An effective practice is to engage scientific integrity officials in the development or revision of the broader set of policies and practices that affect the Bureau. Doing so will help provide needed perspectives before such policies are issued and better ensure they support the needs of scientific quality and integrity.
1 Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, a protected disclosure explicitly includes information that an employee or applicant reasonably believes evidences a loss of scientific integrity.