How the Trump Administration and Congress Should Use Science to Govern

, director of science & policy | November 30, 2016, 9:57 am EST
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The election of Donald Trump raises many questions about the future role of science and evidence in policy making. Many of us are deeply troubled that some transition team members, senior administration officials and people nominated to head up federal agencies have a history of attacking scientists and misrepresenting science.

We’re concerned as well that an emboldened Congress may attempt to pass legislation that cuts science out of existing public health and environmental laws, and cut funding for research critical to understand our changing planet – putting at risk the health and well-being of Americans and people around the world.

Across the major issues that confront us—from disease outbreaks to climate change to food safety to cybersecurity—people benefit when our nation’s policies are informed by scientific knowledge unfettered by inappropriate political or corporate interference.

That is why, in this moment, it is essential for scientists across our nation and across disciplines and institutions to lay out our community’s expectations for how President-elect Trump and Congress should use science to govern.

And that is why I am proud to join with more than 2300 other scientists across all fifty states in signing onto an open letter to President-elect Trump and the 115th Congress, urging them to set a high and sturdy bar for integrity, transparency and independence in using science to inform our nation’s policies.

Among our signers are 22 Nobel Laureates as well as leading scientists who have provided high quality, independent scientific counsel to both Republican and Democratic Presidents for decades. We are scientists in government agencies, universities, private industry and non-governmental organizations. We are physicists, social scientists, chemists, earth scientists, biologists, health scientists and more.

Together, we are calling on the incoming Administration and Congress to:

  • Appoint officials to lead federal agencies who have a unvarnished track record of respecting science as a key input into policy-making;
  • Ensure that federal agencies encourage and welcome scientists regardless of religious background, race, gender or sexual orientation.
  • Ensure that federal scientists are able to conduct their work without political or private-sector interference, freely communicate their findings to Congress, the public and scientific colleagues and be able to disclose any censorship of or other abuses of science without fear of retaliation; and
  • Provide resources sufficient for scientists to conduct policy-relevant research in the public interest

We make clear what is at stake. Without investments in science in the public interest and policies that draw upon scientific evidence, the letter states, “children will be more vulnerable to lead poisoning, more people will be exposed to unsafe drugs and medical devices, and we will be less prepared to limit the impacts of increasing extreme weather and rising seas.”

We intend this statement to give members of the incoming administration and Congress a clear understanding of the standards we will hold them to; to give journalists and citizens across the nation our take on what to look out for; and build upon and extend related calls for the Trump administration to name a nationally respected science advisor.

If you are a scientist and share our views, please join us. You can add your name to the statement here.

Posted in: Science and Democracy

Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.

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  • june conway beeby

    It is important to review the theories that scientists hold to be true to ensure we are not continually overly-.certain of evidence (?) that has been accepted by older research for decades. I am talking about the social studies that brought us the magical thinking that social engineering can ameliorate or cure serious mental illnesses. The public has believed these unscientific ideas hold cures or amelioration for their loved ones with chronic neurological diseases like schizophrenia, manic depression, autism, Alzheimer’s disease and the myriad of other kinds of madness. Recent scientific research has corrected this mistake by finding the brain molecules and parasites that infect human brains. (Earlier microscopes could not detect them). But they are the root causes of diseases like schizophrenia and depression, for example, which incubate in late teens and early twenties. (We would be much wiser if we had not accepted social studies to guide treatment.
    Alzheimer’s disease on the other hand is a disease of old age.
    This is shown to be a normal result in medicine. You may recall the scientist who uncovered the root cause of ulcers when it was wrongly blamed on psychological problems. This scientist was so dismissed by the system,that he drank some water with priori stomach bacteria in it. He quickly became recognized years later when he received a Nobel Prize in medicine. Many professionals did not accept his research, and continued with the old psychological therapy.
    Sounds like the recent disbelief in biological brain diseases.