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White House memo might encourage younger scientists

Over a year and a half after the president's initial memorandum on scientific integrity, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy finally released their memo for federal agencies. The memo offered sound, sensible guidelines; however, it left implementation and other details up to individual departments. A vague memo might be unavoidable, as the multitude of agencies cover a wide array of research fields and might not fit under a single umbrella of detailed rules.

Setting the indistinctness aside, one aspect of the memo was particularly positive for younger scientists who want to develop careers in government labs -- if the majority of federal agencies can implement it.  Section IV, titled "Professional Development of Government Scientists and Engineers", directed federal departments to encourage scientists to publish papers in peer reviewed journals, attend professional meetings, and participate in other events that are generally standard for most members of academia. 

It seems that government scientists make up a small percentage of participants in many chemistry conferences and societies. Thus, it's difficult for people to learn about developments and opportunities in government labs from a primary source. It's equally difficult for government scientists to obtain valuable feedback by sharing their results and ideas with the scientific community. If section IV can be widely implemented, it would naturally lead to more transparency and open communication, important factors that were stated in the memorandum. 

John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science & Technology, is giving federal agencies 120 days from December 17, 2010 to report actions that they have taken to apply the policies. One hopes that the deadline will be enforced and not be allowed to lag, as the agencies' responses will decide the success of the memo.

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