President Biden’s Executive Actions Signal Commitment to Science for the Public Good

Statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 27, 2021

WASHINGTON (January 27, 2021)—President Joe Biden is set to issue a new presidential memo establishing a plan to strengthen scientific integrity and science-based decisionmaking across the federal government, as well as other executive orders that advance the consideration of science and climate change in policymaking. These executive actions will help ensure that the public is benefiting from the best independent science and that federal agencies can craft smart, effective public health, safety and environmental protections based on that science, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.

“For the last four years, we’ve seen science deliberately and repeatedly excluded from federal policymaking. The previous administration undermined science at least 189 times, downplaying risks, concealing evidence from the public, and gutting federal scientific capacity. We need a new direction—and with today’s executive actions, President Biden and his team are acknowledging the important role that science should play in solving the very real problems we face.

“The climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the widespread danger of contamination from chemicals like PFAS vividly illustrate how much we need to listen to science when we’re making decisions, and the tragic cost of sidelining science for political reasons. When science is pushed out of the process, powerful industries and ideological actors can more easily influence policy, blocking science-based safeguards that protect communities across the nation.

“Federal scientists work for the public, and they must be able to conduct research on behalf of the public without fearing that they’ll become a political target. They must be able to communicate openly and honestly about the threats we face and the potential solutions. Such protections are especially needed now to ensure the benefits of government science are shared more equitably across the nation. Scientific integrity protections aren’t just for federal scientists—they’re vital for the people those scientists serve.

“Today’s executive actions are an encouraging start, but advancing science and public health will require continued vigilance. Over the next four years, scientists, public health experts and community advocates will be watching closely to make sure that the Biden administration upholds its promise to heed the science. We look forward to working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and federal agencies as they follow through with the guidelines needed to protect scientific integrity.”

Today’s executive actions reflect recommendations the Union of Concerned Scientists issued last year in its “Roadmap for Science in Decisionmaking” report.