Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Presidential Memorandum On Scientific Integrity

Mar 9: As part of the well publicized signing of Stem Cell Executive Order, President Obama also signed a separate Presidential Memorandum On Scientific Integrity. Regarding the Memorandum, the President said, ""Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation. It’s time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America’s place as the world leader in science and technology."

According to the White House, the Memorandum helps to implement one of the President’s key campaign commitments on science policy, which was to "restore scientific integrity in government decision making." A fact sheet indicates that science and technology are essential to achieving a broad range of national goals: driving economic growth and job creation; allowing Americans to live longer, healthier lives; developing clean sources of energy that reduce our dependence on foreign oil; protecting our environment for future generations of Americans; strengthening national and homeland security; and more.

Realizing the potential of science and technology to help achieve all of these goals requires that the Administration’s decisions about public policy be guided by the most accurate and objective scientific advice available. The public must be able to trust that advice, as well, and to be confident that public officials will not conceal or distort the scientific findings that are relevant to policy choices. Accordingly, the President is assigning to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) [Dr. John Holdren, nominated to be Director OSTP, See WIMS 2/13/09], the responsibility of ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological issues.

According to the Memo, within 120 days, the Director of OSTP must develop a strategy for ensuring that: (1) The selection of scientists and technology professionals for science and technology positions in the executive branch is based on those individuals’ scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, and experience; (2) Agencies make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied upon in policy decisions; (4) Agencies use scientific and technological information that has been subject to well-established scientific processes such as peer review; and (5) Agencies have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency, including whistleblower protection.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) indicated that the Obama Memo follows the recommendations they made to prevent the abuse, manipulation and suppression of federal science. Dr. Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS's Scientific Integrity Program said, "Just a few years ago, almost 15,000 scientists across the country signed a UCS-sponsored statement denouncing the politicization of federal science, and today's memorandum is proof that the Obama administration heard their cry. Federal policy decisions that affect public health and the environment must be based on robust scientific analysis free of political interference and manipulation. UCS surveys at nine agencies have documented that, over the past eight years, federal scientists have been working in a climate of fear and intimidation. For example, 60 percent of the EPA scientists who filled out a 2007 survey said they personally experienced at least one instance of political interference in their work over the previous five years. . ."

Access a fact sheet on the Memo (
click here). Access the complete text of the Memo (click here). Access a release from UCS (click here). Access UCS's Scientific Integrity website for more information (click here). [*All]