The Trump Administration Spent 2017 Undermining And Abandoning Science Advice, According To A New Report

Make America Think Again. Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit science advocacy group, states the blindingly obvious right from the get-go: “The Trump administration’s relationship with science and evidence is strained.”

Taking an in-depth look at this aspect of the federal government one year on from the inauguration of Donald Trump, it concludes that the Trump administration’s sidelining of scientific advice is considerably more widespread than previously recognized. Science is being abandoned like never before.

By this point, it shouldn’t come as news to you that the Trump administration is furiously anti-scientific. Although its “war on science” is a little more complex than just a denial of factual information, the actions of the federal government have had a profound impact on both American and global science.

This report is another (important) addition to a dire pile of evidence in this regard, and it highlights the myriad of ways in which the government is acting unfathomably regressively. Here are some of the findings of the report.

– Scientists and their work, particularly on climate change, are being censored and defunded.

– The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy – among others – are being corroded from within, purged of scientists who are then replaced by industry darlings. Around 23 percent of the EPA's scientific advisory boards will be industry figures, up from just 6 percent in 2017.

– The scientific advisory committees at all three agencies have met less often than any time since records began.

– Constant budget cuts threaten to decimate state-funded scientific research.

– Key members of the Trump administration, particularly Scott Pruitt and the President himself, constantly try to undermine both researchers and the scientific process itself.

– There are no scientific advisors in the White House, including a presidential science advisor, which breaks four decades of precedent. (Incidentally, when dealing with natural disasters – which the US experienced like never before in 2017 – not having them by your side is like going to war without your generals.)

– Only 20 of 83 top government science positions have been filled. At the end of Obama’s first year in office, 62 positions had already been filled. For Bush, 51 had been filled.

Science has drained from the White House. Mike Demidov/Shutterstock

All of these are previously known factors, but seeing them – and far more – in one place makes for some gut-wrenching reading. The language of the report also speaks volumes: Federal agencies are showing a “pattern of neglect and disrespect”, while the EPA is “eroding impartial science advice”.

One good piece of news is that this assault on science and scientists themselves has inspired a veritable uprising. The UCS report points this out, explaining that “the administration’s actions are spurring strong responses from elected officials, the scientific community, and the general public.”

Academics are running for Congress with a real chance at winning, climate researchers without a purpose in the US have found Europe waiting for them with both funds and open arms, and the rest of the planet has signed up to the Paris agreement, despite the White House’s rejection of it.

States, businesses, and cities are signing low-carbon deals with others parts of the world, while some are even taking legal action against the fossil fuel industry. Congress has somehow managed to buffer federal agencies from most of the draconian funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration. People are literally marching in the streets to defend science.

"Through his cabinet picks for EPA, the Interior Department and the Energy Department it’s clear the President would rather listen to the fossil fuel industry than those with scientific training and expertise," Shaughnessy Naughton, the President of 314 Action, told IFLScience.

"This report is further proof that he’s willing to silence scientists in favor of special interests. If the President wants some real science advice come November, he should look no further than our endorsed candidates who will be leading the charge for evidence-based policy making in Congress."

By all accounts, 2018 is going to be another year in which federal science is pushed firmly to the side. You know what they say, though: darkness rises, and light to meet it.


Science advocacy has never been more important.


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