White House's Scientific Integrity Guidelines Coming Soon

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—Top Obama Administration officials said yesterday here at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) that long-awaited federal guidelines on scientific integrity are coming out this month.

After much criticism over the Bush Administration's handling of scientific advice, incoming President Barack Obama said that his Administration would "restore science to its rightful place." In March of 2009, the president laid out basic principles he expected federal agencies to follow. He also asked the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create guidelines for the agencies within 4 months.

But they're 16 months late, and the delay has led to criticism from lawmakers and activists. (At the AGU meeting outside a lecture by presidential science adviser John Holdren, an official with the Union of Concerned Scientists handed out orange stickers saying "Hey Mr. President—We are ready for scientific integrity!")

Getting the agencies and the White House to agree "has been a more-challenging task than expected," admitted Holdren in his talk on science policy in the Obama Administration that he delivered yesterday to more than 700 attendees. But he said the guidelines would be out by the end of December, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco said later that they could appear as soon as this week.

The delay is "not for lack of trying … we are very close," Holdren told attendees. Later, he told ScienceInsider that getting "all the various [agency] stakeholders" to agree had proved tricky, as had balancing the detailed recommendations with the needs of each part of the federal government.

Holdren said in June that basic principles that the president laid out last year were already guiding agencies.

Holdren said the guidelines are among administrative tasks that were the "most boring part of what we do but not unimportant." He had hoped to release them Monday during his hour-long lecture.