President Obama is expected to address the National Academy of Sciences on Monday to mark its 150th anniversary, according to an all-staff email that went to NAS employees yesterday. The speech will stream live at 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time at www.national-academies.org.
President Obama last addressed the NAS in April 2009. In that speech, he discussed the administration’s desire to address political interference in science:
“To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine democracy. It is contrary to our way of life. That’s why I’ve charged John Holdren and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with leading a new effort to ensure that federal policies are based on the best and most unbiased scientific information. I want to be sure that facts are driving scientific decisions — and not the other way around.”
The speech reinforced his March 2009 scientific integrity memorandum, which led to a December 2010 directive from Dr. Holdren, which led to scientific integrity policies from federal agencies and departments that UCS recently analyzed.
The NAS was founded under President Lincoln. Many presidents have addressed the NAS. One of my favorite quotes came from President George H. W. Bush in 1990:
“Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.”
UCS is pushing the Obama administration to continue its progress on scientific integrity by strengthening and fully implementing the policies that have been developed. It will be interesting to see what issues President Obama addresses—and does not address—in his remarks on Monday.