Created by on 07/12/2011

FASEB sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) in support of a proposed rule amendment that would enable government scientists to participate more fully in their professional societies. Government employees are currently prohibited from serving as an officer, director, or trustee of a private non-profit organization, because, according to the Department of Justice, they owe fiduciary duties to the organization that may conflict with their loyalty to the federal government. While the current rule gives agencies the authority to issue waivers that would permit their employees to serve on nonprofit boards, not all do so. Opponents of the rule have argued that it limits the professional development of government employees, creates barriers to meaningful exchange between federal and non federal experts, and engenders confusion in instances where employees are permitted to serve in a private rather than an official capacity.

To address these concerns, OGE proposed an amendment to the rule that indicates a financial interest in a nonprofit organization does not bar government workers from participating in those organizations. OGE reasoned that financial interests in non-profits are generally too remote or inconsequential to affect the integrity of an employee’s service. The amendment would not, however, preclude federal agencies from imposing meaningful controls and limits on service in non-profit organizations.

FASEB encouraged the proposed rule change, noting in a letter to OGE that relationships between scientists and their professional societies are not only beneficial to researchers and their societies, but also to the government and the public. The letter stated that full participation in non-profit professional activities fosters the professional development of federally employed scientists, enables them to establish relationships and collaborations with scientists with whom they ordinarily may not have contact, and allows them to maintain and advance their standing among their peers. FASEB’s letter is available here.