Aug 16, 2022 - Energy & Environment

White House climate official sanctioned by key science body

Jane Lubchenco, then-administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, testifies during a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on May 18, 2010, on Capitol Hill. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The National Academy of Sciences has barred Jane Lubchenco, a key White House climate aide, from involvement in NAS publications and activities for five years for violating its code of conduct before joining the administration, the organization said.

Why it matters: The move represents a significant rebuke to Lubchenco, who is deputy director for climate and environment at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Driving the news: The NAS, the most prestigious science body in the U.S., said the decision, effective Aug. 8, stems from section 3 of its code of conduct. It states that members "shall avoid those detrimental research practices that are clear violations of the fundamental tenets of research."

  • A NAS spokesperson confirmed that the decision is related to last year's retraction of a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
  • Before joining OSTP, Lubchenco edited a paper that was retracted from the journal PNAS in October 2021 because the data underlying the analysis was not the latest available, and because she has a personal relationship with one of the authors (her brother-in-law).
  • Lubchenco, while at the White House, has been spearheading work to develop scientific integrity policies across government agencies.

What they're saying: “I accept these sanctions for my error in judgment in editing a paper authored by some of my research collaborators — an error for which I have publicly stated my regret," Lubchenco said in a statement.

  • Lubchenco, a marine scientist, headed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration during the Obama administration.

Catch up fast: Lubchenco's involvement with the paper has drawn criticism from House Republicans and from the American Accountability Foundation (AAF), a conservative group that had called on the NAS to probe Lubchenco.

  • "The American people deserve leaders in the White House who don’t use their positions of influence to put their thumb on the scales for friends and family. Dr. Jane Lubchenco does not meet that standard and does not deserve to be an Assistant to the President," AAF founder Tom Jones said in a statement.

Andrew Freedman contributed reporting.

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