The Trump administration, less than a month in, has already waged a war on the nation’s scientific enterprise. President Donald Trump has ordered several federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior, to cease communications with the public and Congress. Further, EPA scientists have been told that their results and findings now may need to go through an internal vetting by the administration before their release to the public. Trump has even ordered the National Park Service to take down any tweets that refer to climate change. It seems likely the administration will soon massage results or outright falsify data to advance Trump’s agenda. This is extremely troubling.
Our nation has led the world in scientific discovery, and this was made possible by the support of the U.S. government. Federally funded research has contributed to food safety, agriculture, clean water and air, energy, national security, the development of therapies for childhood diseases and cancers, and a number of other areas that benefit our everyday lives. The federal government supports research in its own agencies but also supports most research that occurs in universities and colleges nationwide. The knowledge generated from this federally funded research is used to make sound policy decisions, improve our economy and improve our lives.
The free exchange of ideas and speech is an American value. Our nation will only benefit if scientists are allowed to make discoveries and discuss findings without intrusion or fear of retribution. The free flow of ideas is what has allowed this nation to lead the world in scientific and medical discoveries. The move by the administration to stifle scientific communication will damage our nation’s reputation and standing in the world and will diminish our nation’s ability to compete on the global stage.
As citizens, we need to stand up against this attack on our ability to make informed decisions about our lives, families and communities. This is a nonpartisan issue. The health of our children, the state of our planet, the availability of clean drinking water and the ability to breathe clean air are basic to all Utahns and all Americans. Republican or Democrat, we all benefit from free scientific discovery. This is a human issue. This is an American issue. Let’s stand up against this administration’s anti-science policies and its effort to hold back American progress.
Clement Y. Chow is a professor in the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Utah.