How the Trump Administration and Congress Should Use Science to Govern

November 30, 2016 | 9:57 am
Peter Frumhoff
Former Director of Science and Policy and Chief Climate Scientist

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.