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Biden restores scientific integrity in White House: Data 'should never be distorted' by politics

Along with actionable measures to ensure scientific integrity within federal agencies, Biden prioritizes diversity within scientific committees.

Biden restores scientific integrity in White House: Data 'should never be distorted' by politics
Image Source: Vice President Biden Speaks On Education At Miami Dade College. MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 02. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Within the first two weeks of Joe Biden's time at the White House as President, he has set his administration's principles and values giving us an indication of what the next four years will look like. In addition to making diversity and inclusivity top priorities, Biden has made sure to center scientific integrity, basing policy on data and evidence rather than political considerations. To reaffirm his administration's focus on the evidence, the President issued the Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking memorandum. The directive is similar to an executive order. Its main aim is to prevent "improper political interference," IFL Science reports.



The memorandum's preamble reads, "It is the policy of my Administration to make evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are central to the development and iterative improvement of sound policies, and to the delivery of equitable programs, across every area of government. Scientific findings should never be distorted or influenced by political considerations." Biden also has plans to sign an executive in order to re-establish the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. After four years of a White House influenced by partisan values, this comes as a welcome step.



To this effect, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will play a key role under the Biden administration. The OSTP is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring scientific integrity across all federal agencies. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have nominated mathematician and geneticist Eric Lander for the directorial post. In the past, he has served as the co-chair of former President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Should he be confirmed for the position, he will manage an interagency task force in charge of reviewing the effectiveness of scientific integrity policies within various agencies and Departments. The review is scheduled to take place within the first 120 days of the Director and other members' appointments.



Additionally, there are several changes coming to each individual federal agency. For instance, an agency must appoint a Chief Science Officer, responsible for ensuring research programs are conducted with integrity; scientists and their work are protected; and the prevention of suppression or distortion of data, if it oversees, directs, or funds research. Agencies must also review their current Scientific Advisory committees. The memorandum reads, "Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, heads of agencies shall review their current and future needs for independent scientific and technological advice from Federal advisory committees, commissions, and boards."



A crucial part of the memorandum is its emphasis on diversity within federal agencies. It calls for the heads of all federal agencies to make sure the current and future members represent American diversity with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, and geography. It affirms, "Improper political interference in the work of federal scientists or other scientists who support the work of the Federal Government and in the communication of scientific facts undermines the welfare of the Nation, contributes to systemic inequities and injustices, and violates the trust that the public places in government to best serve its collective interests."



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