Obama scientific integrity

WHAT HAPPENED TO OBAMA’S PROMISE TO RESTORE SCIENTIFIC INTEGRITY? – JONATHAN LATHAM

Pretty much every branch of the US government has had trouble implementing President Obama’s flagship scientific integrity policy. In 2011, the US Department of the Interior (DOI) appointed the scientist Dr. Paul Houser to be its first ever Officer of Scientific Integrity. Within a year he was fired. Believing his dismissal was for drawing attention to a scientifically questionable Department policy, Houser formally accused the DOI of “scientific and scholarly misconduct and reprisal.” But because the Department of the Interior had fired him, they no longer had a scientific integrity officer for him to complain to.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has had a new scientific integrity policy since 2013. Despite that policy, the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) recently petitioned USDA saying that “suppression and alteration of scientific work for political reasons remain common at USDA” and that agency scientists “routinely suffer retaliation and harassment” when their work offends agribusiness.

About the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the worst that had been said was that, four years after the President’s promise, the agency still had not hired anyone; plus that its outline for a Scientific Integrity Plan lacked integrity. But that was before publication of its first ever Scientific Integrity report.

The President’s promise falters at EPA, too

Back in November 2009, in his first inaugural address, President Obama committed again to what had by then become a major and much-discussed campaign promise: to “restore science to its rightful place”.

The Presidential promise followed a series of Bush era government scandals, such as letting Vice-President Dick Cheney’s staff edit global warming reports. The scandals showed repeated attempts by business lobbies, and the Federal Government itself, to obstruct and distort scientific policy-making, scientific data, and scientific advice.

The President’s chosen method to “restore science” was to create officers of scientific integrity at federal agencies and government departments. These officers would investigate all complaints relating to scientific integrity, whether from insiders or outsiders.

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