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Special Commentary: Democracy in Flux

skdey

On January 28th, President Trump ordered a travel ban for all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and for all refugees for 180 days. Spontaneous protests erupted at airports and borders all over the country, particularly over detainees who held visas or green cards. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against the order, and a judge motioned in favor of the ACLU, suspending the executive action. Only then were green card holders and those with validated visas released.

Refugees and other travelers without such authorized documents have been turned back or are still detained, and a message has been communicated to those countries on the banned list: their citizens, their researchers, doctors, surgeons, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals are not valued by America. Yet through countless studies and historical trends, it is clear that diverse perspectives fuel innovation.

In light of announcements for a new executive order limiting travel, conference plans are being canceled or put on hold and research programs have been cast into a state of instability and fear. The science community must advocate on behalf of our peers and colleagues abroad and remind the administration that diversity is a driving force in research and a strengthening component for society as a whole and for the Endocrine Society in particular.

The administration has failed to address scientific concerns, instead continuing to deny acknowledged facts on climate science and reproductive rights while otherwise ignoring the science community.

The science community has already begun to organize in response to the misinformed policy guidelines established thus far by the Trump administration. The lack of definitive support for human-incited climate change and the threat it poses to the security, health, and well-being of the U.S. (and the world) is a major concern; with an administration set against environmental protections and unconcerned with research, what will become of the vast reams of research at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that support climate change and link harmful chemicals used in manufacturing to increased risk of cancer?

During this tenuous transition stage, evidence that endocrine disruptors damage human health might be ignored or disparaged with severe consequences for human health and development. Further research is at risk of being eliminated under the erroneous rationale that endocrine disruptor damage is a part of American industrial history. Yet with the administration’s focus on repealing environmental regulations, the public health risk will only increase.

A gag order handed down to the EPA and USDA was met with an immediate public outcry, resulting in the order’s rescindment and a statement from the USDA citing a misunderstanding from an internal email. However, rogue social media accounts were formed to disseminate threatened climate change information and to update the public on internal developments, with the National Park Service (NPS) leading the way and the EPA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) following suit.

The administration has failed to address scientific concerns, instead continuing to deny acknowledged facts on climate science and reproductive rights while otherwise ignoring the science community. The cabinet composition offers little comfort to the research community on issues of human health and environmental science. There is little indication that the White House will hold facts or evidence in high regard, especially on topics that challenge Trump’s authority or the profit-making of America’s economic elite.

The President’s FY18 initial budget blueprint reinforces the threat to science funding specifically for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), as they are considered non-defense discretionary funding. Yet America has always been a leader in research, innovation, and human rights advocacy. We should not and must not allow any administration to change the core values and principles of the U.S. We must fight back against these collective adverse situations by building a strong coalition between different scientific and social organizations that strengthen progressive policies in the face of an antagonistic government.

We will stand up as active members in the science community and as citizens of the U.S. to advocate for evidence-based science and human compassion.

With these grim samples of what we may expect from a Trump presidency, the scientific community is organizing its own March on Washington D.C. on April 22. Coordination efforts are currently underway and the official website states that the march is open to “anyone who values empirical science.” They also affirm that science and science advocacy is apolitical:

“There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives.  The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action.  The diversity of life arose by evolution.  Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable.  An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.”

During this tenuous time, silence and hesitation will only enable the degradation of our nation’s integrity. We will stand up as active members in the science community and as citizens of the U.S. to advocate for evidence-based science and human compassion.

SK Dey, PhD, professor, director of the Division of Reproductive Sciences, and Katie Gerhardt, senior administrative assistant, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

 

 

Further Reading:

NPR Commentary. “Fact Check: Science and the Trump Administration.” National Public Radio. Jan 22 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017

Kaiser, Jocelyn, Jeffrey Mervis, Zack Kopplin, and Science News Staff. “What Trump’s nominees have said about science at their Senate hearings.” Sciencemag.org. Jan 25 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

White House Briefing Room. “Presidential Actions.” Whitehouse.gov. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Liptak, Adam. “Trump Will Issue New Travel Order Instead of Fighting Case in Court.” New York Times. Feb 16 2017. Accessed Mar 1 2017.

Office of the Secretary of Energy & Environment. “Earthquakes in Oklahoma FAQs: 6 Myths and Misconceptions.” Earthquakes in Oklahoma. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Krisch, Joshua A. TS Picks: Trump’s First Week in Office. The-scientist.com. Jan 26 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Leetaru, Kalev. “What the ‘Rogue’ EPA, NPS and NASA Twitter Accounts Teach Us About the Future of Social Media.” Forbes.com. Jan 25 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Morgan, David. “Government Science goes rogue on Twitter.” CBSnews.com. Jan 26 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Science March DC. “Scientists’ March on Washington.” Scientistsmarchonwashington.com. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

Rossman, Sean. “First women, now scientists to march on Washington.” USAtoday.com. Jan 26 2017. Accessed Jan 26 2017.

United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf. www.census.gov. May 2011. Accessed Jan 29 2017.

World Health Organization. “Safe abortion: Technical & policy guidance for health systems.” http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/173586/1/WHO_RHR_15.04_eng.pdf?ua=1. June 2015. Accessed Jan 29 2017.

Grant, Bob. “Trump’s Budget May Cut Science Funding.” The Scientist. Feb 28 2017. Accessed Mar 1 2017.

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