WASHINGTON (January 24, 2017)—It’s the first full week of President Trump’s administration and attacks on science are already underway. In a memo to Environmental Protection Agency staff, the Trump transition team ordered a freeze on grants and contracts and imposed new restrictions on EPA scientists. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, scientists at the agency’s main research arm have been barred from any public communication about their work. This undermines vital public health and environmental protections, erodes public trust and violates the basic principles of science, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Below is a statement by Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS.
“These actions don’t just threaten scientists—they threaten everyone in the country who breathes air, drinks water and eats food. These agency scientists carry out research in support of policies that protect our health and safety and help farmers, and it makes no sense to put up walls between them and the public, or unilaterally halt the work they do.
“Both the EPA and the USDA have developed scientific integrity policies that, among other things, protect scientists’ right to speak out about their work. The American people deserve to know the results of taxpayer-funded research.
“Halting the EPA’s grants and contracts is equally short-sighted and destructive. As we saw in past government shutdowns, you can’t just turn scientific research on and off like a switch. We know that scientists can lose years of work, businesses can see investments lost and communities can be deprived of information they need to make good decisions. EPA grants and contracts include efforts like water safety testing and hazardous waste disposal—work that you can’t just walk away from without exposing communities to preventable risks.
“If you care about clean air, clean water and policies that actually protect people, you need the best independent science—a nd actions like this make it harder for Americans to benefit from science. That the administration has moved so quickly to clamp down on scientists shows that the Trump administration is more focused on lifting rules on polluters than keeping our air and water clean.
“The scientific community is ready to fight back against any efforts to marginalize or suppress science and undermine science-based policies and research people depend on. More than 5,500 scientists have come together to say that President Trump must respect the role of science. These actions are the clearest sign yet that he isn’t living up to that standard.”