A robust democracy requires a common well-spring of reliable information. During his first days in office, US President Biden affirmed that evidence-based decision-making—informed by vigorous science and unimpeded by political interference—would be a pillar of his administration. He directed ambitious actions to implement that goal, including the creation of an interagency Scientific Integrity Task Force, which has just released the first-ever, comprehensive assessment of scientific integrity policy and practices in the US government.
The stakes for the United States of America cannot be overstated. Science that has integrity and the trust of their thinking citizens can be such a powerful force for good. Charlatans, cheats and those that pollute the scientific body of knowledge with junk science do real harm. We all need to call out those that do significant harm with their words and deeds. Institutions, funding bodies and regulatory bodies need to tread more harshly misconduct that perpetuates damaging theories. This work in the US is to be celebrated and emulated in other countries.
For example, during Hurricane Dorian’s approach in 2019, then US President Trump tweeted information contradicting the official forecast of scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Senior political leadership then directed NOAA to issue a press release supporting the president’s inaccurate forecast, in effect manipulating scientific information, jeopardizing public safety, and undermining public confidence in government. In another instance, the Trump administration added a citizenship question to the 2020 census, overruling Census Bureau scientists who cited clear evidence that doing so would depress the response rate and could jeopardize census quality.