Judith Curry: Government Scientists & The Trump Shift

  • Date: 25/01/17
  • Judith Curry, Climate Etc.

A seismic shift is occurring in a number of federal agencies.

Some headlines from Tuesday:

Trump silences scientists at EPA, USDA  A message sent to EPA staff on Monday prohibits staff from creating press releases, blogs, messages, or any social media postings concerning their taxpayer funded work. The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration.

Trump administration tells EPA to freeze all grants, contracts “They’re trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don’t want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first,” said Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an industry-backed group that has long sought to slash the authority of the EPA.

Commerce nominee Ross promises to protect “peer-reviewed research” at NOAA: “No valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public.”  [link]

Trump administration tells EPA to cut climate page from website The employees were notified by EPA officials on Tuesday that the administration had instructed EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions.

Article 2 of the Constitution

So what is going on?  If you are not familiar with the U.S. constitution, take a look at Article 2, The Executive Branch.  Here is a good Summary. Excerpt of the key section:

Clause 1. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Here the Framers spell out several of the president’s more important powers. First and foremost, he is commander-in-chief of the military. Second, he is the boss of the heads of all the civilian departments of government; the bit here about requiring their written opinions provides the constitutional basis for the cabinet. And third, he has the power to pardon individuals convicted of crimes.

Basically, the civilian departments such as EPA, USDA and NOAA now work for President Trump, with the Directors of these agencies working with the administration to further the President’s policies.

You may ask: What about academic freedom for government research scientists?  Forget about it, it doesn’t exist.  Scientists working in government labs, agencies, etc. work on scientific problems or technologies that further the administrations interests. Does this mean that it is legitimate for them to torque scientific findings in the direction of the administrations interests? No.  Rather, it means that government employed scientists shall now work on projects that are of interest to the Trump administration.

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