Scientists conducting research with public policy implications report that politics is still trumping science under the Obama Administration. "We are getting complaints from government scientists now at the same rate we were during the Bush administration," said Jeffrey Ruch, a lawyer who heads an organization representing scientific whistle-blowers, to the Los Angeles Times. Government scientists were hopeful in Obama’s first weeks as the President directed his administration to "guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch." Yet from national reviews of toxic chemicals to development in the Florida Everglades and oil and gas drilling in Alaska, concerns of federal scientists continue to be brushed aside.
The latest example involves the President’s Cancer Panel report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now. After reviewing the latest scientific evidence on environmental causes of cancer, the Bush-appointed scientists on the Panel concluded that human cancers could be significantly reduced by eliminating exposures to environmental carcinogens. In early May, the Panel delivered a letter with the final report strongly urging Mr. Obama to use the power of his office to “remove carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water and air.” A group of public health experts met with White House officials following the report’s release, and were sorely disappointed with the lack of plans to respond to the scientific findings. “Our sense is that the recommendations in a remarkable report are being actively ignored by the Administration,” reports PAN board member Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network, in a joint report on the meeting with his colleagues Dr. Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Richard Clapp. “A great opportunity to prevent cancers through better environmental protections may be lost.”
Dr. John P. Holdren, President Obama’s Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office on Science and Technology Policy, told the Los Angeles Times that stronger policies on scientific integrity are "coming soon."