Trump’s Cabinet Nominations Spark Concern, Letter From Scientists

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By Jeannie Baumann

Dec. 1 — Growing concern the new White House will let politics interfere with science and health policies has prompted thousands of scientists to sign an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump.

The letter, dated Nov. 30 and organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists, called on both Trump and the new Congress to use science to develop federal policies and maintain the independence, integrity and transparency of the scientific process.

“Many of us are deeply troubled that some transition team members, senior administration officials and people nominated to head up federal agencies have a history of attacking scientists and misrepresenting science,” Peter Frumhoff, chief scientist for the union’s climate campaign, said in a Nov. 30 blog post.

Their concerns represent a stark contrast to President Barack Obama, who is a self-proclaimed “science geek” and has said his initiative to advance targeted treatments through precision medicine is a top priority of his administration.

Concerns for Congress Too

Frumhoff said the scientists’ concerns extend beyond the president-elect to include Congress.

“We’re concerned as well that an emboldened Congress may attempt to pass legislation that cuts science out of existing public health and environmental laws, and cut funding for research critical to understand our changing planet,” Frumhoff added, “putting at risk the health and well-being of Americans and people around the world.”

The letter came out as Trump nominated a well-known climate change skeptic to head the Environmental Protection Agency. While his transition website lists “[a]dvance research and development in healthcare” among his health priorities, the president-elect has said little about specific research policies.

The letter also called for adequate funding of science agencies. “The consequences are real: without this investment, children will be more vulnerable to lead poisoning, more people will be exposed to unsafe drugs and medical devices, and we will be less prepared to limit the impacts of increasing extreme weather and rising seas,” it said.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said more than 2,300 scientists from across all 50 states have signed the letter.

Appoint Science Adviser

The letter from the concerned scientists was released one week after 29 science-based organizations called on Trump to appoint a high-level science adviser to his White House.

“We know that one of your top priorities will be to focus on ensuring that the U.S. economy remains strong and continues to grow,” the science groups’ Nov. 23 letter said. “If we are to maintain America’s global leadership, and respond to the economic and security challenges currently facing the nation, we must build on our strong history of federal support for innovation, entrepreneurship and science and technology.”

John Holdren, director of the White House Office for Science and Technology Policy, has served that role for Obama since his appointment in December 2008.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Randy Kubetin at rkubetin@bna.com

For More Information

The letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists is available at //src.bna.com/kr6.

The letter from the science groups is available at //src.bna.com/kr7.

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