In a surprise move, the US government published in the Thursday, April 23rd Federal Register a "request for public comment" on a scientific integrity memo. This relates to the memorandum issued by President Obama on March 9, 2009, in which he required "the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)to craft recommendations for Presidential action to ensure scientific integrity in the executive branch." I discussed the memo in a previous post.
The Federal Register notice "solicits public input to inform the drafting of those recommendations." The notice asks "a series of questions to help guide the public in responding to this request."
As defined in the current Federal Register notice, the six principles of the President's March 3rd memorandum, and on which public comments are solicited are:
(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and
technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the
candidate's knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;
(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to
ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;
(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards.
(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;
(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and
address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of
scientific and technological information may be compromised; and
(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decision-making or otherwise uses or prepares.
There is a 21 day period for public comment from April 23, 2009 to May 13, 2009.
The fact that this request for public comment relates to a presidential memorandum - which generally are edicts from the President without any public input - is a sign of a greater openness not just in providing the final results but also the underlying research and the process that went into developing the final outcome. It instills a greater degree of public confidence in the scientific process. It also gives all viewpoints - dissenting opinions as well as proponents - a chance to be heard. Which is likely to increase the chances of strong science-based policy decisions being made with less ideological manipulation.