Obama Administration a Year Behind on Scientific Integrity Plan

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Elliott Negin
Media Director
202-331-5439
enegin@ucsusa.org

Obama Administration a Year Behind on Scientific Integrity Plan

WASHINGTON - On March 9, 2009, President Obama announced his administration would
restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking and gave his
science adviser, John Holdren, 120 days to come up with a plan. A year
later, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
is still silent on the issue.

"When Barack Obama was a presidential candidate, he said stopping
political interference in science was a top priority," said Francesca
Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists Scientific
Integrity Program, which blew the whistle on widespread censorship and
distortion of science during the Bush administration. "While the new
administration has been generally supportive of scientific integrity
values, it's moving too slowly to establish badly needed reforms.

"The current system still discourages scientists from communicating
about their research results, for example," she said. "It still keeps
the public in the dark about the scientific basis for policy decisions,
and it still rewards staffers who keep quiet about political
interference in science." She noted that just last week a Food and Drug
Administration veterinarian testified before Congress
that the agency retaliated against him in 2007 and 2008 for reporting
serious problems at two major meat-packing plants. "The administration
has changed, but the system that allows retaliation against
whistleblowers has not."

As proof that agencies can improve openness and accountability, two
hallmarks of scientific integrity reform, Grifo pointed to several
executive branch actions. NASA, for example, established a new media
policy that allows scientists to speak more freely with the press. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened its process for
evaluating toxic chemicals to wider scrutiny. And the White House is
now publishing its visitor logs. (For more about the administration's
progress, see The Road to Independent Science: A Progress Report on Scientific Integrity.)  

"Some agencies are moving ahead," Grifo said, "but the
administration must provide specific guidelines for all agencies to
meet President Obama's pledge to stamp out political interference in
science."

A report
released last week by George Washington University found that
scientists face difficulties in disseminating their work, are not
always able to speak freely with the public and press, and are blocked
from sharing data with colleagues at other agencies. The report
documents that federal scientists have seen little systemic change
since the Obama administration took office.

UCS, working with government scientists and other policy experts,
developed a comprehensive set of scientific integrity reforms, outlined
in the 2008 report "Federal Science and the Public Good" and summarized in comments submitted to OSTP last May.  

"An accountable government and good policy decisions depend on
access to robust and reliable scientific analysis," said Grifo.
"Without restoring scientific integrity to federal policymaking, public
health and safety are at risk."

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The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. UCS combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

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