CSLDF: Here’s How Science Has Suffered During the First 1,000 Days of Trump

This is a repost of the October 17th entry in the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund  blog, by CSLDF Executive Director Lauren Kurtz.

Editor's note: Skeptical Science always tries to discern and respect the sometimes hazy border separating scientific research and its findings from public policy and hence politics. Here we have a situation that springs directly from the political world to negatively affect some of the core operations and functions of scientific inquiry. The effects of this are nonpartisan in terms of their poor outcomes and hence a matter of neutral, natural inclusion in our content.

Here’s How Science Has Suffered During the First 1,000 Days of Trump

The administration’s assault on science includes attempting to cast doubt on climate change, limiting and eliminating access to scientific information, and preventing federal scientists from publicly communicating their research.

In the Silencing Science Tracker, a public database we maintain with Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, we catalog government efforts to restrict, censor, undermine, and misrepresent science. We’ve defined these actions as those that aim to restrict or prohibit scientific research, education, or discussion, or the publication or use of scientific information.

Federal entries in the Silencing Science Tracker broken out by agency

Our analysis of Tracker data reveals where and how the Trump administration is focusing its efforts to silence science. The largest number of entries pertain to actions taken at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), constituting 23 percent of federal entries and the Department of Interior (DOI) at 18 percent.

But other agencies are not immune to attacks on science. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Commerce (DOC)—the parent agency of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA)—are also well-represented in the Tracker.

This is a continuation of the trend we reported in January 2019, with different agencies represented at roughly the same rates as they were earlier in the year. It is worth noting actions to silence science are increasingly spread across a variety of smaller agencies or agencies typically less focused on scientific research, such as the Department of Transportation and the Federal Communications Commission.

Climate science also remains the type of science most under attack, at 72 percent of Tracker entries. Other types of science affected include nutrition research, children’s health research, and endangered species listings.

What’s new is that the types of government efforts to silence science have shifted considerably since the beginning of 2019. Reports of government censorship have risen to 39 percent of all entries, up from 26 percent in January. In fact, 65 percent of entries over the past three months—or 13 out of 20 entries—involve government censorship

Silencing Science Tracker entries broken out by type of action

The reasons for these shifts are not clear but we believe, as others have observed, federal treatment of science and research has reached a “crisis point.”

While all administrations are guilty of politicizing science to some degree, government attempts to silence science now happen more frequently and egregiously than ever, from the doctoring of hurricane maps to broadly dismantling federal scientific advisory boards.

The impacts of government attacks on science are dire and concerning. Public health is endangered when scientists are prohibited from speaking to the public; environmental resources are imperiled when scientific research is ignored, and sound policymaking is jeopardized when access to data is restricted.

If you’re a scientist who has experienced or witnessed attempts to silence science, or if you have legal questions related to your work, please contact us to arrange a free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.


Posted by Guest Author on Monday, 4 November, 2019

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