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Science, Integrity and the White House Guidelines

The White House has finally issued new guidelines for science after 18 months of waiting.  The idea was part of the Obama administrations’ promise to restore science to its rightful place and "insulate government scientific research from political meddling and to base policy decisions on solid data."

In principle, setting guidelines for how science should carried out and how it should interact with the public domain is long overdue.  This is especially urgent after the abuses of the Bush administration.

Do the new guidelines go far enough and do they ensure that the integrity of scientific practice will be honored up the chain of command? The answer to that question seems up for debate.  Some are happy that anything has been done at all.  From Nature we get,

Among the pluses: clear rules allowing government scientists to participate in the scientific community by presenting research at meetings and serving on the boards of scientific societies and journals

Others find the rules to lax enough for lots of mischief at the level of individual agencies. New Scientist puts it this way,

Indeed, lengthy negotiations between government officials seem to have resulted in the insertion of phrases that could allow indefinite wriggle room.

From the public release of data to the ability for scientists to speak with the media, the new guidelines do address the hot button issues.  But only time will tell if we have made real progress or just the illusion of movement.