Monday, March 09, 2009

Obama admin wants to keep science and politics separate

You've probably all heard by now that President Obama plans to lift the Bush-ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, but he is also indicating a new committment to science that goes beyond just that action:

When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research today, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said yesterday.

"The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals," Melody C. Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council, told reporters during a telephone briefing yesterday.

Although officials would not go into details, the memorandum will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public," said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Removing this ideologically-motivated roadblock is a good start, and some members of Congress are looking at codifying into law so that a future administration can't just change it back. But most exciting is that we have an administration that is going to be driven by science not just on stem cells, but climate change and other issues, instead of politics. After the Bush years, this couldn't be more welcome.

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