Science Policy in the Obama Administration

Articles in this week’s editions of Science and Nature explore the use of science by policy-makers in the Obama administration. An editorial piece in Nature contrasts the use of ‘common sense on scientific matters’ with the attitude shown by President George W Bush and advisors in the previous US Government.

Early August saw the first meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), whilst White House advisor John Holdren and the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, signed a memorandum outlining the administration’s priorities in advance of budget requests for the 2011 financial year. The memorandum featured the key phrase, “sound science should inform policy decisions”, emphasising the role of science and technology in informing the Government’s priorities.

At the meeting of PCAST, Holdren said that the council’s speedy formation was a clear signal that Obama thinks science and technology are crucial in addressing global challenges. At the meeting, the members of the Committee outlined future priorities for scrutiny. Suggestions included influencing the research agenda of the as yet unfunded ‘National Institute for Food and Agriculture’, cancer research and national strategies for research into adaptation to climate change.