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Scientists fear President Trump's first week could preview an aggressive approach toward federal research, citing early orders on climate science and a clampdown on agencies' public communications...
“We view this as sort of the opening act of what’s going to be a long and bloody drama," he added.
The Trump team says they're doing nothing out of the ordinary for a new administration and that many of the groups representing the science community who are complaining appear to lean left.
Officials backed down from that proposal, though the site is missing critical climate change articles, including a lengthy FAQ page on the science behind climate change that concluded: “All major scientific agencies of the United States … agree that climate change is occurring and that humans are contributing to it.”
Trump’s EPA transition team was also forced to deny reports that the agency would require its scientific findings be vetted by career staff.
A pause in agency operations between administrations is common, officials say. But they contend Trump's team has gone further in its policy review than past administrations in their first days.
Rush Holt, a former Democratic congressman and the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said efforts at the EPA this week raised concerns about “stifling communications of scientists among themselves or with other scientists outside of the agency.”
Liz Purchia, an EPA communications director during the Obama administration, said that early Trump actions within the agency — the communications freeze, website review, a hiring pause under a government-wide order from Trump and a soon-to-be completed review of agency grants — sets a bad tone.
“The combination of all those things is really dramatic and drastic and pretty much achieving what Donald Trump set out to do, which is completely hinder this federal agency, and it’s just incredibly disturbing,” she said.
Concerns aren’t limited to the EPA.
“There's nothing that has come from the White House. Absolutely not,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday. "There are a couple of these agencies that have had problems adhering to their own policies.”
“They haven’t been directed by us to do anything,” he said.
Observers say the next action to watch is Trump’s budget proposal.
Those moves come in contrast to the strategy employed by the George W. Bush administration, which used appropriations to pump funding into federal science programs, according to Matt Owens, the vice president for federal relations and administration at the Association of American Universities.
“When we talk to people in EPA, while there may be concerns about restrictions on speech, the biggest concern is if they’re going to have a job. That’s quite naturally a paramount concern.”
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