Amid the big stem cell news, the second half of what the president did yesterday–in essence, order his science adviser to conduct a government-wide scientific housecleaning–has gotten less attention. But it’s remarkably important if we want to get over the science problems of the Bush years. In my latest Science Progress column, I explore the meaning of the president’s memorandum setting forth this objective. To wit:
The whole problem with the Bush administration’s responses to many allegations of political interference with science is that the answer was always the same: Nothing to see here folks, move along. Repeatedly, Bush spokespeople-Marburger, and also various press secretaries-simply asserted that all the whistleblowers were wrong, all the journalists were wrong, heck, anybody was wrong who suggested anything untoward had happened. They didn’t seriously investigate the problems; they dismissed the idea that there were any problems. Needless to say, it wasn’t a very credible approach.
Now, not only can we hope for a more transparent method of dealing with any potential new politics and science allegations; we can also hope for a much stronger presidential science adviser with the power to investigate them. For that’s perhaps the most significant aspect of the President’s scientific integrity memorandum. It puts John Holdren on a par with the heads of the federal agencies-with the cabinet-who need to report to him to show that their houses are in order. In other words, he’ll serve as a central science czar whose role is to provide good advice and preserve informational integrity, and who will actually be listened to and heeded.
Now, if we could only get Holdren through the Senate and into his job.
You can read the full column here.