The Missing Scientific Integrity Policy! At Last! Sort of!

Photo by The National Academy of Sciences, via Flickr.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The Obama administration on Friday finally released that scientific integrity plan it was supposed to produce almost a year and a half ago.

President Obama called on John Holdren, his chief science adviser, to “develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making” and ensure that the new administration makes decisions based on “the soundest science” in one of his first executive orders. Holdren announced on the White House blog that he’s issued a memorandum describing the “minimum standards” expected for departments and agencies as they write their own scientific integrity rules. So it’s not exactly the plan—more of a framework. But I guess that’s something.

Holdren wrote that the new standards call for a “clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency.” Each department and agency is expected to report on its progress on that front in four months.

While watchdog groups are glad to finally see the directive, they’re somewhat nervous that implementation appears to be left up to individual agencies. Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program, called it a “rough but promising blueprint for honesty and accountability in the use of science in government decisions.” “If the details are fully articulated by federal agencies and departments, the directive will help keep politics in its place and allow government scientists to do their jobs, said Grifo in a statement. “At the same time, I’m worried that the directive leaves an enormous amount of discretion to the agencies.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest