Obama Says Science Will Lead Health, Environmental Decisions

By Currie, Donya | The Nation's Health, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Obama Says Science Will Lead Health, Environmental Decisions


Currie, Donya, The Nation's Health


Science will be the basis of U.S. health and environmental decisions, President Barack Obama announced in March, signaling a welcome change in federal policy.

"Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions," Obama said in a March 9 memorandum on scientific integrity.

He added that scientific and technological information used by the federal government should be made available to the public and that the selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the administration should be "based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience and integrity." APHA has long advocated for strong science to drive federal decision-making, yet recent years have seen scientific data often overlooked.

To fulfill his pledge, Obama called on the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy that will, among other things, ensure agencies use scientific and technological information that has been subject to well-established processes such as peer review. He also called for appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within an agency, including whistleblower protection.

Acting on the new guidance on science-based decisions, Obama issued an executive order in March lifting restrictions on stem cell research.

"At this moment, the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated," Obama said. "But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions."

The move was praised by APHA and groups such as the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, whose president, Richard Marchase, PhD, called it "a great step forward for science and for health. …

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