Back in March of 2009, President Obama signed a memorandum that laid out six scientific integrity principles and gave the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy 120 days to “develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.” My colleagues and I submitted comments and waited eagerly for OSTP to release the recommendations. By July 2010, though, the office had missed the original deadline by an entire year.
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology meets every two months, and a portion of the meeting is set aside for public comments, which can be delivered in person or electronically. At today’s meeting, the in-person public comments were dominated by people expressing concern over the long delay in the scientific integrity guidelines; commenters included my colleague Susan Wood and Francesca Grifo of Union of Concerned Scientists (video here). After all the comments had been delivered, OSTP Director and PCAST Co-Chair John Holdren responded to their concerns with a date:
The particular plea that those recommendations be issued before the end of the year will certainly be met. I think it will be met with some considerable time to spare.
He assured the audience that although the official recommendations haven’t been released, Obama’s six scientific integrity principles have been in force. He also stated:
I want to reassure the folks in the community that I have appreciated and taken on board the many inputs we’ve had from that direction – they’ve been helpful. The very detailed guidance we got in the public input process were very helpful. I think you’ll find that much of that input that we received from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others will be reflected in the guidance that is finally issued.
PCAST Co-Chair Eric Lander also thanked the commenters for showing up and harping on the issue:
We appreciate the many speakers who have come to hold the government’s feet to the fire with regards to the scientific integrity guidelines coming out … I’m just thrilled that working scientists from many different areas have showed up today from five or six different directions to make the same point.
We’ll be monitoring OSTP to see whether they do in fact release the scientific integrity recommendations by the end of the year – and as long as the delay continues, we’ll keep bringing it up.