There is a lot of press coverage about yesterday's White House action on stem cell research, but a key part received less attention. Included in the action was a presidential memorandum that directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making." President Obama outlined the goals of his new policy:
To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisers based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals -- to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.The memorandum, is entitled " Scientific Integrity". Some key quotes:
As an independent agency, FCC is not automatically subject to this new policy. However, I urge Chairman Designate Genachowski to embrace this policy and integrate it into FCC practice. Presumably the memorandum applies to NTIA since it is an Executive branch agency.
"Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.
The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. The selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.
1. Within 120 days from the date of this memorandum, the Director shall develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch, based on the following principles:
(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate's knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;
(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;
(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards;
(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;
(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and
(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares."
Technical issues are never the sole issues in public policy. The NY Times today has the following quote from Alan I. Lesher, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): “We’re not dumb — we know that policy is made on the basis of facts and values." But by asserting “the centrality of science to every issue of modern life,” Dr. Lesher said, Mr. Obama is suggesting that science rather than ideology will be the foundation for his decision making. “What you are seeing now is both a response to the last eight years, and a genuine reaction to President Obama’s enthusiasm for science,” he said.
Let's bring technical issues back into their proper role at FCC. The nadir reached in the ARRL v. FCC court case, where the court found numerous apparently politically motivated flaws with FCC's technical analysis, should never be repeated.
The road map offered in IEEE-USA's unanswered letter to Chairman Martin would be a good place to start.