President Obama could hardly have made himself more popular among scientists if he had repurposed the West Wing to launch a new genome center. Journalists and bloggers alike are praising not only Obama's decision to reverse restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but also the pro-science sentiment that went with it.
Nicholas Wade at the New York Times called it "soaring oratory," noting that "in practical terms, federally financed researchers will now find it easier to do a particular category of stem cell experiments." (Wade's article is worth a read -- he gets into the stem cell advances that came about as a result of Bush's policy, which forced scientists to try different approaches to their research.)
A blog post from Alexis Madrigal at Wired says that Obama "issued a potentially landmark memo Monday declaring a new era of 'scientific integrity' across government. In no uncertain terms, Obama signaled that the federal government would be guided by science, not the other way around."
Meanwhile, Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas blogged that Obama's order not only made the needed change, but "did so in a way that does not repeat Bush's mistakes. ... By referring the implementation details not to political officers, but to scientific leadership at the NIH, the President avoided major pitfalls of his predecessor's approach."
But not everyone thought the event was something to celebrate. In an op-ed at the Washington Post, Yuval Levin, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, takes Obama to task for failing to acknowledge the ethical debate about using human embryos in research. That debate -- whether an embryo is a human life protected under federal law -- is a "legitimate dispute," Levin writes. "While Obama promised that his policy would be bound by ethical guidelines, he left it to the scientists of the National Institutes of Health to define the rules. ... Science policy is not just a matter of science. Like all policy, it calls for a balancing of priorities and concerns, and it requires a judgment of needs and values," he adds.