Quantcast
Science
Matthew Roth / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

New Survey of 63,000 Scientists Across 16 U.S. Agencies Details How Trump Is 'Sidelining Science'

By Jessica Corbett

A new survey of 63,000 scientific experts across 16 federal agencies reveals that as the Trump administration continues to brazenly attack national environmental regulations, it is also "sidelining science" within agencies, with staffers reporting issues including "censorship and self-censorship, political interference in scientists' work, low morale, decreased agency effectiveness, and dwindling resources."


Partnering with the Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology at Iowa State University, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) conducted the survey in February and March of 2018, after spending more than a year documenting the federal government's "abysmal" record on science policy since President Donald Trump took office.

UCS compiled the responses into a report that outlines how "federal scientists are doing the best they can, but many report that they lack the resources and institutional support to inform agency decisions most effectively."

Many said they feel agency "leadership, including officials lacking scientific expertise, are wasting taxpayer dollars through counterproductive reorganizations and clampdowns on scientists' ability to share their knowledge with the public."

Among those surveyed, the report states there is also widespread concern that "science-based federal agencies are losing critical expertise and capacity due to early retirements, buyouts, sustained hiring freezes, and other departures of scientists from government service."

And while some scientists have voluntarily left their government jobs—some out of frustration—or had their roles eliminated under Trump, other science positions simply remain vacant. As of June, the report notes that the president had only filled "25 of the 83 government posts that the National Academy of Sciences designates as 'scientist appointees.'"

UCS researcher and report co-author Jacob Carter said that while issues of political interference, staff cuts, and lack of qualified leadership are plaguing "many of the critical science agencies—especially the agencies that handle environmental regulation," scientists at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that "their leadership respects their work and includes them in the policymaking process."

Despite the few agencies that seem to be surviving Trump's well-documented war on science better than the rest, Andrew Rosenberg, director of UCS's Center for Science and Democracy, warned, "the challenges we're seeing for scientists in the Trump administration are serious."

"When federal scientists can't carry out their work, it's the public that suffers," explained Charise Johnson, a UCS research analyst who worked on the survey. "When you can't research threats and share accurate information with the public, there are real consequences. People depend on federal science to protect them from pollution, chemical exposure, and natural disasters."

"We can't afford to have these agencies hollowed out or let their work be manipulated for political reasons," concluded Rosenberg, who formerly served as senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In addition to outlining trends among scientists' responses and emphasizing concerns about the challenges that federal scientists are facing in the Trump era, the report offers several recommendations for actions that agency leaders can take "to ensure that sound science informs policies vital to the American people's health and safety."

The report urges agency leadership to:

  • show respect for the value of independent science and publicly support agency science;
  • act to reduce inappropriate industry influence on agency scientific work and science-based policy decisions;
  • foster an environment conducive to effective work for agency scientists;
  • stop censoring results or terminology that are legitimate products of the scientific process;
  • encourage scientists to speak freely to the public and the news media about their work;
  • remove barriers to the timely public dissemination of scientific information;
  • provide appropriate resources and time for federal scientists to participate in professional meetings and other professional development opportunities; and
  • continue to facilitate training on scientific integrity policies and whistleblower rights.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!