"To restore science to its rightful place."
This was one of President Barack Obama's many promises at his first inaugural address back in 2009. True to his word, the POTUS supported various scientific efforts throughout his eight-year presidency.
Obama's Legacy In Science
Obama spearheaded a trio of major medical research projects: the BRAIN Initiative in 2013, the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015, and the Cancer Moonshot in 2016, drawing mixed reactions from critics.
He is dubbed as the first American president to get published in prestigious academic journals while in office, with a total of 13 articles to date. His latest one about the irreversible momentum of clean energy was published recently in Science.
The U.S. under Obama's leadership played a pivotal role in the Paris climate agreement, helping at least 195 countries across the world to reach a global consensus in hopes of actively reducing carbon pollution and its detrimental effects on human health and the environment.
Obama also pledged $3 billion worth of financial support to the Green Climate Fund, an international organization that helps developing countries transition to technologies free from carbon emission.
New DOE Guideline To Protect Scientists From Political Interests
Amid growing concerns of impending budget cuts and a possible 180-degree shift in focus and priorities once President-elect Donald Trump moves into the White House, the Obama administration has made a last-ditch effort to make sure none of this happens, at least not any time soon.
"DOE officials should not and will not ask scientists to tailor their work to any particular conclusion," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz stated. Moniz released the revised guidelines from the Department of Energy (DOE) on Jan. 11 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The more stringent guidelines give researchers the freedom to talk about their personal opinions on science and policy issues in public, provided that they specify they are not speaking on behalf of the government. Researchers are expected to advise their higher-ups before appearing for media interviews or publishing their findings, but these, however, are not subject for approval.
Obama vs Trump On Climate Change
In December 2016, Trump's transition team reportedly sent a questionnaire asking the agency to name employees who were involved in climate change-related activities — the DOE refused to comply.
A vocal anti-climate change proponent, Trump believes climate change is a hoax and an economic sabotage from China. He has also threatened to quit the Paris climate deal.
Obama, on the other hand, made a final push for climate change and urged officials to put politics aside during his farewell address to the nation on Jan. 10.
"We've led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won't have time to debate the existence of climate change. They'll be busy dealing with its effects. More environmental disasters, more economic disruptions. Waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary," he said.
"We can and should argue about the best approach to solve the problem," Obama continued. "But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations, it betrays the essential spirit of this country — the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders."
Watch the full video of Obama's final speech as POTUS: