Use of Scientific Studies Restricted at DOI

On October 8, 2018, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), David Bernhardt, issued secretarial order No. 3369 on “promoting open science.” The secretarial order states that it is “intended to ensure the [DOI] . . . bases its decisions on the best available science.” Experts have, however, warned that it could restrict the scientific information used by DOI. 

The order requires DOI bureaus and offices to “utilize and prioritize publicly available, reproducible, peer-reviewed science to the extent possible” and states that “[a]ny decision based on scientific conclusions that are not supported by publicly available raw data, analysis, or methodology, have not been peer reviewed, and are not readily reproducible should include an explanation of why such science is the best available.” The order also directs Secretarial Offices to make publicly available the “scientific data” and analysis “relied upon in a rulemaking.” These requirements could restrict DOI’s use of certain public health and environmental studies where the underlying data contains confidential medical or other information that cannot be made publicly available or subject to peer review. 

Biden Administration Response:

On March 3, 2021 the DOI Acting Secretary Scott de la Vega issued Secretarial Order 3397, rescinding Secretarial order 3369.