Earlier this year, the White House Office of Science and Technology launched a 46-person Scientific Integrity Task Force to review the federal government’s scientific policies to ensure they are free from inappropriate political influence, as several top health officials under former President Donald Trump publicly admitted they faced political pressure while doing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We need all of America to help protect scientific integrity and restore public trust,” the office’s Deputy Director for Science and Society Alondra Nelson said in a statement. “Our public call urges Americans from across the country to help chart the course for fact-based policymaking for years to come. Together, we can tackle our most pressing challenges with solutions that are informed by science.”
During Trump’s four years in office, both he and many of his political appointees were notably hostile toward science, particularly the science around the climate crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. Trump often shunned science during his term, including when he touted a hurricane projection map doctored with a Sharpie in the Oval Office and once speculated during a press briefing about the benefits of ingesting bleach to battle Covid-19.
Among other actions taken during the previous administration were several changes to various Environmental Protection Agency websites. In many cases, climate change language was stripped from them. At the time, the Trump administration’s EPA said language was being updated to “reflect the approach of new leadership.” The changes were later reversed by Biden’s EPA.
This comes at a time where many scientists nationwide are under attack over the handling of the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The White House office says it is examining times when science wasn’t followed and identifying ways to ensure greater integrity by adhering to standard practices and increasing transparency into methodology.
“Involving the pubic is a good thing, recognizing it’s a problem is a good thing,” Tim Whitehouse, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility told CNN. “The question is still whether the Biden administration will have the courage to make the changes necessary, which would mean a little less political control over science and separating science from politics and that’s been hard for both Democratic and Republican administrations.”