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      New Biden executive order makes science, evidence central to policy

      John Timmer · / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 28 January, 2021 - 22:39 · 1 minute

    Image of a man seated at a desk, with a man and woman standing behind him.

    Enlarge / U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images )

    Yesterday, US President Joe Biden signed three executive orders. The order with the widest scope was focused on climate policy , and it received the most attention. But the other two, while more narrowly focused, may also have a profound impact, because they seek to reorient the entire federal government's approach to science itself. That includes both protecting scientists from political interference and ensuring that government decisions are based on the evidence produced by science as often as possible.

    PCAST is back

    One of the two executive orders officially starts off the Biden administration's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, or PCAST. The organization is typically set up by an executive order and runs for two years before being renewed by a second. It dates back to the George H.W. Bush administration and has a broad remit to identify the current consensus in relevant fields of science and technology as well as to advise the entire executive branch regarding them.

    The importance of PCAST isn't just limited to science agencies; for example, an Obama-era council issued a report on forensic science that was relevant to everything from research-funding bodies to federal law enforcement agents.

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      Survey shows rising trust in scientists, politicization of basic facts

      John Timmer · / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 21 May, 2020 - 17:58

    Image of a collection of research sample tubes.

    Enlarge (credit: Marcel Kusch/Getty Images)

    For the last several years, the Pew Research Center has been tracking the US public's views on scientists and science-related issues. This year's survey finds a continuation of a worrisome trend: the US public has a rising trust in scientists, but it's mostly due to an increased respect among Democrats.

    The timing of the survey was such that Pew was able to add a number of questions about the COVID-9 pandemic and the policy response to it. The parties also showed differences in their view of policy responses, as you'd expect. But they also differ in how they view basic, easily confirmable facts.

    Some good news, some bad news

    Pew has been surveying a group of over 10,000 US residents, balanced to reflect the country's demographics, for four years now. The number is high enough to provide a very good representation of public opinion, and the length of time is now sufficient to see consistent trends rise above annual fluctuations. This makes it a fantastic resource for tracking the public's changing views of science and its role in society.

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