Science Policy
August 24, 2017
Is the Trump administration harming scientific research?

Critics of the Trump administration say it is waging war on science by placing skeptics of science in key posts and cutting the research budgets of major science-based agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health. They also complain the administration is weakening federal science advisory committees, letting key administration posts go unfilled and undercutting science-based protections on everything from drinking water to toxic chemicals. But President Trump and his supporters say government science has become politicized, resulting in job-killing over-regulation. They also say the federal bureaucracy is bloated and that many science-related positions can go unfilled. Conservatives also defend Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate change agreement, arguing the pact would harm the U.S. economy.

An Aug. 27, 2016, photo shows how much Austria’s Pasterze Glacier has shrunk since 1990. (Getty Images/Sean Gallup)   An Aug. 27, 2016, photo shows how much Austria’s Pasterze Glacier has shrunk since 1990. Glaciers worldwide have been receding at an accelerated pace since the early 1980s due to warming planet temperatures, scientists say. President Trump announced in June that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, a 2015 global pact to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change. (Getty Images/Sean Gallup)

President Trump’s policies have put science in the crosshairs, with conservatives applauding his efforts to shake up the science bureaucracy in Washington and critics of the administration warning that an array of important research efforts and agreements are in jeopardy.

Many scientists who work within the federal government say they feel under siege: Joel Clement, an Interior Department scientist, said he was involuntarily reassigned as retaliation for speaking up about climate change. A few days after his reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke before Congress about his plan to cut 4,000 jobs from the department through “a combination of attrition, reassignments and separation initiatives.” 1 Clement wrote in a Washington Post op-ed: “The only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers.” 2

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