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They’re more like guidelines anyways

December 20, 2010

Government scientists need to know their studies and results will not be sidelined or put them in danger of losing their jobs. Many are complaining now they they are being treated much the same as they were more than two years ago by managers and in a way that fit right in with an administration that was largely anti-science. Scientists and even Republicans are disappointed that the scientific integrity regulations that were supposed to be released last year are still a work in progress. At this point, it would likely be better to have some framework in place even if it's incomplete. I'll admit seeing Georgia Representative Paul Brown (R) ranking Republican on the science oversight committee speak in favor of releasing these guidelines as well as positively about independent scientific peer-reviewed research is heartening. Though I'm suspicious at any Republican's motives when they speak in favor of something I feel like would get them kicked out of the Tea Party, he sounded genuine and of course the need is genuine.
 
I was almost surprised to hear a snipped from this interview with Obama last week where he spoke about the "must haves" vs the "nice to haves" in the government's budget. It's hard to remember he's pro-science these days. I know most of that is the fault of the economy but it still seems like a leap of faith.

Obama: You know, when — when families sit around the kitchen table, they say to themselves, what are the things we have to have? College education for our kids. Paying our mortgage. Getting the roof repaired. A new boiler. What are the things that would be nice to have? A vacation. Eating out. Some new clothes. And if they can afford it, they'd buy things that they'd like to have. But the first thing they do is take care of the things that we have to have.

And under that category, I'd put things like research and development, education, making sure that we're sending our kids to college, rebuilding our infrastructure to compete on the 21st century, making sure that this country is safe.

And I'd like to think the administration knows the difference between federal regulations that protect independent research and oversight that hinders creativity and originality. Earlier in the summer of 2010 an institute created the first self-replicating bacteria cell with a synthetic genome. Though the scientific merits of that development were argued, a Presidential Commission of bioethics looked into the matter to decide what kind of oversight might be necessary in creating biological organisms of this kind in the future. On the 16th of December they made eighteen recommendations around five major points. But in its conclusion the commission recommended self regulation noting that the risks were few and vigilant scientists could be sure to monitor one another as this field develops.

I think that's a good middle road but hope the long expected government regulations on scientific integrity are soon released because while we don't want to micromanage scientific results we do want to make sure researchers are protected.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 20, 2010 10:52 pm

    "But in its conclusion the commission recommended self regulation noting that the risks were few and vigilant scientists could be sure to monitor one another as this field develops."This only works when competence is present. My work is being monitored by a moron, and it is his cronies' subordinates that dictate my work. The tail wags the dog along with other collateral dogs. They are creative with how they waste time. Their research is so original that no one will cite it because it's total crap. No one can say they are not original or creative!"while we don't want to micromanage scientific results we do want to make sure researchers are protected."First, the morons have to learn management skills where science is the first priority, not their promotions and status based on sitting at their desks the longest. Second, the researchers doing the actual work are not protected. They are there to wipe the asses of their bosses. Disposable wipes. The jobs being posted these days are for Supervisors and Entry-level. The mid-career level govt jobs are TERM, TEMPORARY, and NON-STATUS. Obama can appoint all the supervisory morons on the planet to tell us what's happening with Teh Science, much like Larry Summers provided original creative insight on Teh Economy! Yeah ok.jcjc

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