The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is planning to announce later Monday the “formation of a task force aimed at identifying past tampering in scientific decisions,” which will also “review the effectiveness of policies that were supposed to protect the science that informs policy decisions from inappropriate political influence,” according to the Times.
Though White House officials told the newspaper that there are few ways to hold Trump administration officials accountable for actions taken, the forthcoming probe represents “the first step in what White House officials described as a sweeping effort to rebuild a demoralized federal work force” and stands as an early example of the Biden administration’s commitment to science and government accountability.
“The goal won’t be to look backward,” Alondra Nelson, the deputy director for science and society at the White House science office, told the Times. “The goal will be to try to implement practices and policies that prevent anything that might be uncovered from happening again.”
Nelson and Jane Lubchenco, the deputy director for climate and the environment at the White House science office, told the newspaper that it’s unclear whether the administration would create a new “governmentwide scientific integrity policy” or take specific action at various agencies to prevent future abuses.
During former President Donald Trump’s four years in office, both he and many of his political appointees were notably hostile toward science, particularly the science around climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
Among other actions taken over the last four years, the Trump administration made 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.
Trump was also criticized for appointing a number of climate skeptics to key posts, including David Legates, a longtime climate change skeptic who was tapped to help run the federal agency charged with producing “much of the climate research funded” by the government, according to The Washington Post.
And earlier this year, a review of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid-19 guidance found that some of the agency’s guidance during the Trump administration was not grounded in science or free from undue influence, according to a statement from a CDC spokesperson.