Scientific Integrity Is Already in Force Despite Tardy Report, Says Holdren

Jeff tries to explain how government works to readers of Science.

Presidential science adviser John Holdren is nearly a year late on delivering a plan for ensuring scientific integrity across the executive branch of the U.S. government. But Holdren says not to worry. In what appears to be a reinterpretation of what his boss requested in a March 2009 presidential memorandum, Holdren says that his tardy report will simply suggest ways to enhance policies that have already elevated the status of science in government decision-making.

In a 18 June entry headlined "Where Are We on Scientific Integrity?" on his White House blog, Holdren apologizes for missing his 9 July 2009 deadline. But he says it hasn't undermined the Administration's efforts:

All that has been awaiting the requested action by the Director of OSTP is recommendations to the President on what further instructions he might issue in augmentation of these principles in order to advance the goal of achieving the highest level of scientific integrity across the Executive Branch.

Those six principles, which President Obama laid down in the memo issued shortly after taking office, include a pledge to hire experts to fill top S&T positions and a promise that policy decisions will be based on the best scientific advice.

But although principles are important, the original presidential memorandum makes clear that Holdren's job is to figure out how to turn those noble thoughts into reality. "I am ... directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making," the president said about his March 2009 memorandum. Within 120 days, Obama said, he expects Holdren "to recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch."

Holdren's post says that the report will be submitted to the president "in the next few weeks." No word on when it will be released to the public.