The Union of Concerned Scientists has been quite busy compiling their resolutions on how to change the current federal science policy with a new administration posed to take over the country. Their Ten Wishes for the Obama Administration was prompted by President-elect Obama’s selection of Steven Chu, Nobel Prize-winning physicist for energy secretary yesterday.
“Fortunately, political interference in science is a problem with a solution,” said Dr. Francesca Grifo, director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program in recent press release. “We’ve provided 10 quick, easy and inexpensive actions the new administration can take to get off on the right foot.”
“The Obama administration will face immense challenges that can only be met if it has access to the best available scientific information,” she added. “The new leaders of science-based federal agencies must make scientific integrity reform a priority if they are to regain the faith of all Americans and make fully informed decisions that affect our health and safety.”
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, during the Bush administration, more than 15,000 U.S. scientists signed a petition denouncing political interference and requesting reform. The following recommendations focus on transparency in federal agencies and improving the way that science helps the decision-making process:
1. Defend Americans from unsafe drugs, toys, and other products by requiring that federal agency leaders protect employees who blow the whistle when science is misused. Hundreds of government scientists have reported a fear of retaliation for expressing concerns about their agencies’ conduct. Federal government scientists will be looking for a clear signal from agency leaders that the manipulation, suppression, and distortion of science will not be tolerated.
2. Allow the public access to tremendous scientific resources by letting government scientists tell us what they know. The first step is to reform federal agency media policies to allow government scientists to better share their expertise with the public.
3. Protect the air we breathe by obeying the law and setting air pollution standards based on science. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Science Advisory Committee should have a key role from the start in assessing air pollution threats and ensuring that air pollution standards are based on the best available scientific information.
4. Restore our faith in government by providing more information to the public about how science-based policy decisions are made. Agencies should disclose all scientific information used in making a decision, the names of the individuals involved in making the decision, and whether or not there was any dissenting scientific opinion.
5. Use science to conserve our natural heritage for future generations. The role of science in making decisions to protect imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act has been eroded significantly, reducing the government’s ability to protect our nation’s biodiversity.
6. Collect enough information to give us flexibility to meet future challenges and keep tabs on current problems. Initiatives like the Toxics Release Inventory have been recently scaled back, robbing the public of critical information regarding what chemicals are released into our communities. And climate change monitoring satellites have been threatened with funding cuts, severely hampering the usefulness of long-term data sets.
7. Hold your administration accountable to high scientific integrity standards. Give the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy the authority to investigate the state of science at federal agencies and report its findings to the public.
8. Keep politics out of science by reining in the power of the White House to tamper with purely scientific analyses. While it is appropriate for the White House to coordinate activities across agencies, OMB should respect the quality analysis that comes from agency scientists with decades of expertise.
9. Safeguard our health by putting the Environmental Protection Agency back in charge of evaluating the potential dangers of chemicals without interference from other agencies. Roll back new rules that allow agencies with clear conflicts of interest such as the Department of Defense or Department of Energy to delay scientific assessments of the toxicological and cancerous effects of chemicals for a database known as the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS).
10. Protect us by shining a bright light on all agency meetings held with special interests so we can understand their influence. Too many decisions have been made behind closed doors with too much influence from special interests, putting our health, safety, and environment at risk.
For more detailed information as to the UCS’ recommendations, see here.
Which one of the above recommendations resonates with your wishes for change in this country? Are there any other agendas that you feel the Obama administration should be addressing?
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