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Obama wants to depoliticize science

Washington Post / March 9, 2009
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WASHINGTON - When President Obama lifts restrictions on funding for human embryonic stem cell research today, he will also issue a presidential memorandum aimed at insulating scientific decisions across the federal government from political influence, officials said.

"The president believes that it's particularly important to sign this memorandum so that we can put science and technology back at the heart of pursuing a broad range of national goals," said Melody Barnes, director of Obama's Domestic Policy Council.

The memorandum will order the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "assure a number of effective standards and practices that will help our society feel that we have the highest-quality individuals carrying out scientific jobs and that information is shared with the public," said Harold Varmus, who co-chairs Obama's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology.

The decision by President George W. Bush to restrict funding for stem cell research was seen by critics as part of a pattern of allowing political ideology to influence scientific decisions, affecting issues including whether to approve the morning-after pill Plan B for over-the-counter sales and climate change.

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