Yahoo News Photo, Mar. 9, 2009
Regardless of how one might feel about stem cell research, science must not be influenced by politics. It is because science has been for sale that rampant Sick Building Syndrome, Mold-related Illnesses, and Chemical Poisonings exist in America today, impacting many millions of suffering people who haven't been able to get help. Scientists in the USA who study these environmental illnesses have not been listened to. Physicians who diagnose or treat these patients have been harassed. This is about to change!
"Promoting science isnít just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry," Obama said during today's signing ceremony. "It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when itís inconvenient - especially when itís inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda - and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology" (msnbc.com). Bravo, President Obama! (SMH)
Yahoo News Photo, Mar. 9, 2009
The Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity :
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 9, 2009
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Scientific Integrity
Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.
The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. The selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.
By this memorandum, I assign to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Director) the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes. The Director shall confer, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and offices and agencies within the Executive Office of the President (collectively, the "agencies"), and recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch.
Specifically, I direct the following:
1. Within 120 days from the date of this memorandum, the Director shall develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch, based on the following principles:
(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate's knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;
(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;
(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards;
(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;
(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and
(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares.
2. Each agency shall make available any and all information deemed by the Director to be necessary to inform the Director in making recommendations to the President as requested by this memorandum. Each agency shall coordinate with the Director in the development of any interim procedures deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific decisionmaking pending the Director's recommendations called for by this memorandum.
3. (a) Executive departments and agencies shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law and consistent with their statutory and regulatory authorities and their enforcement mechanisms.
(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
4. The Director is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
Ending the war on science?
Posted: Monday, March 09, 2009 7:10 PM by Alan Boyle
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images
President Obama wins applause Monday after signing an
executive order on stem cell research. Among the onlookers are
two Nobel laureates: Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Harold
Varmus, who is co-chairman of Obama's science advisory council.
President Obama made good on a campaign promise today by announcing a plan to raise the level of scientific integrity in policymaking - but the guy who is supposed to flesh out the plan is still stuck in Senate confirmation limbo.
Word about Obama's presidential memorandum on scientific integrity came as the president signed a separate executive order loosening the White House's limits on stem cell research.
"Promoting science isnít just about providing resources - it is also about protecting free and open inquiry," Obama said during today's signing ceremony. "It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when itís inconvenient - especially when itís inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda - and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology."
Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told The Associated Press that the turnout for the ceremony included "more happy scientists than I've seen" at the White House during his 30 years in Washington.
Doug Melton, who is the co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute as well as the father of two children with Type I diabetes that could possibly be treated with stem cells, said he welcomed today's developments as "an enormous relief and a time for celebration."
"Science thrives when there is an open and collaborative exchange, not when there are artificial barriers, silos, constructed by the government," Melton said in a statement.
Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, came under criticism throughout his White House tenure for letting political leanings dictate federal policy on issues ranging from embryonic stem cells to environmental policies. There's a long list of horror stories, including the tales told about climate researcher Rick Piltz and wildlife biologist Andy Eller, as well as accounts from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey and at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Today's memo calls on the director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy to draw up a detailed plan over the next 120 days to make sure officials who deal with science and technology policy are selected because of their expertise rather than their politics. The plan also would seek to ensure that all the findings on which policy decisions are based will be made public, and that appropriate protections will be extended to "science whistleblowers" who question the basis for those decisions.
The memo makes good on a promise included in Obama's responses to a Science Debate 2008 questionnaire. Chris Mooney, author of "The Republican War on Science," said the memo breaks new ground by putting the White House's top science adviser in charge of guaranteeing scientific integrity at every federal agency. "It sounds like the people in the Cabinet will need to talk to him like an equal," Mooney said.
During the previous administration, White House science adviser John Marburger often seemed to be cast as an apologist for Bush's science policies rather than a watchdog, Mooney said. "Either Marburger or the agency would say, 'No, we didn't do anything wrong. This is standard agency procedure,'" he said.
"It's a different situation now. ... There are going to be rules, things you can't do - and at least nominally, that's more than the Bush administration did," Mooney added.
The only problem is that Obama's nominee for science adviser, Harvard physicist and climate expert John Holdren, hasn't yet been confirmed by the Senate. Neither has marine researcher Jane Lubchenco, Obama's choice to head NOAA.
The reasons for the delay are murky: Any senator can put a hold on a confirmation vote, and for a time it looked as if the culprit was Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. But late last week, Menendez's office told Talking Points Memo that the senator was no longer standing in the way. So who is?
Lubchenco has faced some criticism from Eastern fishing interests, but it's Holdren who has generated the most controversy. Some worry that Holdren holds extreme views on the global climate crisis, and that science policies might be slanted to fit those views. That's made him a lightning rod for commentators sounding the alarm about a "Democrat War on Science."
Mooney addressed those worries in a Science Progress blog posting in December and is keeping an eye on the controversy. In Mooney's view, the opposition is a political reaction to the years of criticism that Bush faced on the integrity issue. "What could be more obvious than to try to do a 180 and flip it, and say, 'No, it's Obama who's trying to get political'?" Mooney said.
For whatever reason, Holdren's appointment remains on hold - and thus Obama's plan for improving scientific integrity may have to be put on hold as well.
You'll find a variety of perspectives on Obama's policies from the National Academies, from TierneyLab at The New York Times, from Commonweal and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Feel free to weigh in with your own comments below.