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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White House science memo seen as a step forward

from OMB Watch
The White House took another step toward securing the independence of federal scientists and ensuring the integrity of scientific information used in government decision making. President Obama's top science advisor, John Holdren, issued a memo to executive branch agencies outlining the administration's position on key scientific integrity issues and instructing agencies to implement reforms.

"The memo is a sign of relief for federal scientists who are unsure of their rights and whose work is too susceptible to manipulation," said Gary D. Bass, Executive Director of OMB Watch.

The memo touts the importance of science in policy development and the need to maintain accuracy and integrity in government science. It plainly addresses the potentially corrosive role politics can play: "[P]olitical officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings," the memo says.

The memo, issued by Holdren in his position as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), requires agencies to report to OSTP within 120 days on the actions they have taken in support of the memo's goals. The memo specifically identifies three issues in need of agency attention: federal scientists' right to communicate their work to the media and the public; scientific and technical advice developed and presented by federal advisory committees; and professional development of federal scientists and engineers.

"Articulating a vision for scientific integrity is essential, but the devil will be in the details, some of which are lacking in this memo," Bass said. "Agencies need to act aggressively, and transparently, to advance a robust scientific integrity agenda."
Read the rest here.

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