Restoring Science, Protecting the Public: 43 Steps for the Next Presidential Term

June 11, 2020 | 10:44 am
Photo: EPA
Michael Halpern
Former Contributor

Federal government scientists should be free to pursue research where it leads and communicate their results without political manipulation. The government should collect reliable data about public health and environmental threats and make it publicly available. Formal science advice to government should be robust and independent. Agency leaders should be qualified, ethical, and accountable. Public protections should fully consider the best available science. Those who expose political interference in science should be protected.

Today, dozens of good-government, public health, environmental, consumer, and human and civil rights organizations collectively released Restoring Science, Protecting the Public: 43 Steps for the Next Presidential Term [Links: single PDF | PDF portfolio | archive of individual PDFs]. Participating organizations include the Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Environmental Protection Network, National Center for Health Research, National Parks Conservation Association, Open the Government, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare how the nation suffers when data is not collected and science is sidelined or eliminated from policy decisions. When CDC guidance is doctored and scientists can’t publicly share their expertise, public confusion increases and more people get sick and die. When inspectors general are fired, accountability for bad actors becomes more difficult. When data is not adequate or reliably reported, states, cities, businesses, swimming pools, restaurants, and more lack sufficient information to safely function.

To successfully emerge from the pandemic, we must rebuild not only the government’s scientific capacity but also the public’s trust in government’s ability to provide reliable information and make decisions that protect our health and well-being.

This series of memos provides concrete steps the next administration can take—without significant costs—to make government more effective, efficient, transparent, and accountable. These are principles of good government. They make it more likely that we can keep people safe. They make it easier to reduce health disparities. Recommendations are offered in eight categories:

  • Federal advisory committees
  • Personnel policy
  • Agency scientific independence
  • Restoring strength to scientific agencies
  • Whistleblower protections
  • Scientific communications
  • Data collection and dissemination
  • Regulatory reform

We will share these recommendations with major presidential campaigns and transition teams. We encourage all who have influence over White House and executive branch priorities in 2021 to read these short documents and take them to heart.