As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ending The War On Science

It's not just that the President overturned George Bush's executive order on funding for embryonic stem cell research today. That part was expected. It's the other half of today's orders, the memorandum on scientific integrity, that is so powerful, and such a welcome break from the past.

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.

In short, this is an effort to wall off science from politics, and let's face it, to separate church from state. We have suffered from a science deficit for the duration of the Bush era, particularly because ideologues held an effective veto over policy papers coming from NASA, the EPA, the National Institute for Health, etc. In addition to the ban on political officials suppressing scientific information, the order will secure transparency for scientific and technological information used by the government, which puts another check on those who would subvert sound science. That way we can have these debates in public with the input of experts.

Of course, the order on stem cell research is positive as well. But I really like the idea of science being left to the scientists again.

Todd Beeton has more on the politics of Obama's reframing of the stem cell debate. Of course, I liked this part.

This Order is an important step in advancing the cause of science in America. But let’s be clear: promoting science isn’t just about providing resources – it is also about protecting free and open inquiry. 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 it’s inconvenient – especially when it’s 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.

By doing this, we will ensure America’s continued global leadership in scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs. That is essential not only for our economic prosperity, but for the progress of all humanity.

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