It’s not just the borders of Mexico where Donald Trump is building walls. A fence is going up around science too.
In his first few weeks in office the US President and his White House staff imposed a media black out on the federal Government funded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), put a freeze on new grants and contracts and ruled that future announcements including those about new research findings be screened by political advisers before seeing light of day.
Other public agencies came under similar restrictions http://www.npr.org/2017/01/25/511554855/media-blackout-ordered-for-epa-employees-during-trump-transition
It is true to say that the new administration has backtracked on many of these edicts. But I don’t buy the theory that it is all part of some cunning plan to appear reasonable when the real strategies emerge later.
Nor the glee that greeted the President’s summit with the pharmaceutical industry where he supposedly called for lower drug prices and promised massive cuts in regulation. Yeah right! That’s like the Government getting rid of all pedestrian crossings overnight so cars and lorries can move more quickly: at what price?
No, this looks like mischief making by the highest order. The future for the EPA and a number of evidence-based bodies look bleak to say the least. And in the health arena there has long been speculation about what will become of the Patient Centred Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) which has done so much for public involvement in the US. It could fall victim to Trump’s dismantling of the Obamacare reforms through which it is funded. We must keep our fingers crossed that it is spared.
These moves, together with the President’s highly controversial choice of characters for the top jobs in organisations where sound science is their foundation, plus the attempts to impose restrictions on immigration, is shaking US science and scientists to the core http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_589b3340e4b02bbb1816c1d9
On 22nd April – Earth Day – many thousands of scientists are expected to ‘walk out of the lab and onto the streets’ to protest at the attack on science http://www.themanitoban.com/2017/02/march-science-scheduled-challenge-trump-presidency/30698/ In the meantime scientists across America are mobilising themselves and finding their voice. But what of the wider public?
According to the excellent ResearchAmerica’s most recent opinion poll, Americans citizens are pretty evenly divided on whether they think US science will remain a global leader under Trump. But over two thirds (67%) agree that public policy should be based on the best available scientific evidence and about 4 in 5 (79%) want medical research to be made a priority. http://www.researchamerica.org/news-events/news/americans-split-whether-us-will-be-viewed-global-leader-science-and-innovation
If that is the case then it points to the need for a major public engagement effort by scientists to get as many citizens as possible to join them in their protest. Only then might the White House see science as a movement to be listened to.
In his tweets and actions Trump is placing himself between good science and the public. By doing so he is potentially doing untold harm to both. This is one of those occasions where scientists and the public must come together, work together. The possible consequences of not doing so are too serious to ignore.
Simon Denegri Sent from my Work iPhone
You can also find me at: