Tuesday, March 10, 2009

US President Advocates for Research Integrity

US President Barack Obama announced a new emphasis on the integrity of science used to help make public policy decisions. As summarized by the NY Times,

President Obama’s directive on Monday to 'guarantee scientific integrity' in federal policy making could have a far-reaching impact....

The document orders Mr. Obama’s top science adviser to help draft guidelines that will apply to every federal agency. Agencies will be expected to pick science advisers based on expertise, not political ideology, the memorandum said, and will offer whistle-blower protections to employees who expose the misuse or suppression of scientific information.

The idea, the president said in remarks before an audience of lawmakers, scientists, patients advocates and patients in the East Room, is to ensure that 'we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology'....

Here are some key parts of the memorandum written by the President:

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.

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.

Unfortunately, we rarely post about what could be called good news on Health Care Renewal. But I really think it is really good news when the President of the United States makes scientific integrity a headline issue; speaks for scientific integrity and specifically against suppression and manipulation of science; advocates specific standards for scientific integrity for every government branch and agency; advocates for the transparency of science and the scientific process used in policy decisions; and argues for the protection of whistle-blowers.

We have again and again documented instances of threats to scientific integrity (specializing, of course, in the integrity of clinical and health services and policy research) including suppression of research, manipulation of research, and protection of whistle-blowers. It's nice to see these causes gain moral, and in this case legal support, especially from one of the most powerful political leaders in the world. Nice work, Mr President!

1 comment:

Egy Azziera said...

We all have our thoughts about our new president Barack Obama, which most people would love to share with one another. Barack Obama went further than any previous president in apologising for American behaviour.