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Obama Removes Stem Cell Barriers.

In a good move today, President Obama removed Bush Administration barriers to some forms of stem cell research [funding]. Executive Order of March 9, 2009:

Sec. 1: . . . For the past 8 years, the authority of the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to fund and conduct human embryonic stem cell research has been limited by Presidential actions. The purpose of this order is to remove these limitations on scientific inquiry, to expand NIH support for the exploration of human stem cell research, and in so doing to enhance the contribution of America's scientists to important new discoveries and new therapies for the benefit of humankind.

Sec. 2. Research. The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of NIH, may support and conduct responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research, including human embryonic stem cell research, to the extent permitted by law.

Sec. 3. Guidance. Within 120 days from the date of this order, the Secretary, through the Director of NIH, shall review existing NIH guidance and other widely recognized guidelines on human stem cell research, including provisions establishing appropriate safeguards, and issue new NIH guidance on such research that is consistent with this order.

Behind Obama at the signing was a group of distinguished scientists, including my wife's mentor, Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago.

Obama gave an eloquent little speech about basing policy on science and facts. I am happy to see this remnant of what has been called the "Republican war on science" fall by the wayside. I wish he would take on the war on science being waged by many mainstream scientists (and their political acolytes) in the climate field. If scientific standards were higher in that field, I doubt that Obama would now be proposing to saddle American business with a trillion or two dollars in carbon emission restrictions and offsets when we can least afford it.

Obama should start by requiring — AND ENFORCING — federal rules and norms for prompt, effective data archiving on federally funded projects. The stakes are too high to allow climate science to pass without checking.

UPDATE: Here is "Reason as Our Guide," the dissent filed by Janet Rowley and Elizabeth Blackburn to the Kass Committee Report on Stem Cell Research.

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