Attacks on Science

The Trump administration and 115th Congress have been actively dismantling science-based health and safety protections, sidelining scientific evidence, and undoing recent progress on scientific integrity.

We've seen this movie before. And we know how to fight back. We're standing up for science. We're inviting scientists to securely share information on scientific integrity abuses. And we're encouraging our supporters to watchdog this administration and Congress, as we did during the George W. Bush administration and the Barack Obama administration.

Below is a running list of attacks on science—disappearing data, silenced scientists, and other assaults on scientific integrity and science-based policy. The list provides a representative sample of threats to the federal scientific enterprise.

Beyond this list, many other moves by the president and Congress degrade the environment for science and scientists in this country. For example, the president’s Muslim ban hurts science and scientists, including those working for the federal government and the president’s rescinding transgender protections is damaging to the ability of all young budding scientists to reach their full potential. These actions are also important to document, and we continue do so on the UCS blog.

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Wilbur Ross, has added a question to the 2020 census asking if the respondent is a US citizen. The question is being added without going through normal testing procedures.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) dismissed evidence showing the benefits of preserving our national monuments.  

Top officials at the Department of the Interior (DOI) ordered the deputy director of the National Park Service (NPS) to dismiss a directive that promoted science-based decision-making as a guiding principle for the preservation of ecological, historical, and cultural treasures at national parks, for reasons that appear to be politically motivated. Public policy decisions that are meant to protect America’s public health and the environment are most effective when informed by scientific evidence. This cannot happen when science is sidelined in the policy-making process. Our national parks are under severe threat from rising seas, floods, and wildfires and, if we want to protect our parks, we need policies that promote the best science available.


In June, the Los Angeles Times broke the story about a new policy at the US Geological Survey (USGS) requiring scientists to get permission before speaking to reporters and representing a dramatic change from decades of past media practices. The Department of Interior (DOI) falsely claimed the new policy was consistent with guidelines published during the Obama administration, which gave scientists more freedom to publicly share their expertise. The policy was removed from its original location and was buried deep in the DOI website after it was linked to by reporters.

The Trump administration successfully stopped the publication of a study measuring the health effects of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), a group of hazardous chemicals found in drinking water and household products throughout the United States. Studies have shown PFAS are associated with several detrimental health impacts, including decreased fertility, increased cholesterol, elevated cancer risk, interference with the body’s natural hormones, and negative effects on growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children. Many of the contaminated sites are on military bases across the country and affect military families directly. Multiple Republican and Democrat Congressmen have expressed concern about the censorship and have called for the report to be released.

The Department of Interior (DOI) and two agencies under the DOI have carried out policies that block or restrain federal scientists from attending or presenting at scientific conferences. High quality research often results from rich collaborations between scientists, and conferences are the primary vehicle for these opportunities to occur. By barring federal scientists from attending conferences, research progress and effectiveness is ultimately hindered, preventing federal agencies from fulfilling their science-based missions.

In December the Trump administration proposed a new rule that specifically allows employers to control and distribute tip income as they see fit, taking away control of tip money from the employees—food servers, baristas, and many other hardworking people—who earned it. Now it has come to light that the Department of Labor, which proposed the rule, has suppressed data and analysis from the department’s own experts showing the economic impacts of this rule.

An EPA analysis showing that Congress’s proposed “HONEST Act” would cost the agency more than $250 million per year was buried by Administrator Pruitt’s office. The analysis, conducted by experts at the EPA, was to be sent on to the congressional budget office (CBO) from Administrator Pruitt’s office, but it never made it there.

The Department of Energy is terminating the Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiment – Tropics (NGEE-Tropics) research project about seven years ahead of schedule.

The fisheries office of the NOAA decided to disregard their science-based quota requirements and extend the recreational fishing season of the red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.