Yesterday, President Obama lifted a ban on the use of federal funds for research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 2001. The executive order directs the National Institutes of Health to develop appropriate guidelines for the research. President Obama’s decision reverses the order issued by President Bush on August 9, 2001, which limited federal research funding to embryonic stem cell lines already in existence on that date. The new order does not lift the congressional ban on the use of federal funds to create new embryonic stem cell lines, but it does allow scientists to use federal funding to study the hundreds of new cell lines that have been created since 2001.
President Obama also issued a memorandum intended to insulate science, utilized for executive branch decision making, from political influence. More specifically, the memorandum assigns the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy the responsibility for developing a plan within 120 days to “guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch.” The plan will include 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.