Photograph: Steve Helber/AP
Scientists got nothing to worry about from President Trump, activists, however, i.e. dishonest, “green” rent and grant seeker swindlers – Democrats pretending to be climate experts and scientist, they should worry. The climate scam is costing billions and are killing people. These criminals should go to prison!
The Guardian write ..
Donald Trump has won. Science and scientists played almost no part in the campaign. Now, scientists must consider how they fit into a Trump future. This won’t be easy. Many scientists are scared. In the tribal world of US politics, many now find themselves on the outside looking in. Most university scientists are Democrats, and the 2017 President, House and Senate will all be Republican. For this group, nothing portends disaster more than the elevation of a long-time opponent to national and international policies, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to oversee the transformation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Even those academics who lean Republican (many of whom are engineers, since you ask) would despise Trump’s rejection of what a George W Bush adviser once dismissed as the “reality-based community” (that is, anyone interested in prioritising evidence over faith).
While speculating on details like who Trump will ask to replace John Holdren as his science advisor, scientists should not just be asking what Trump will do for them. They should face up to the difficult question of what they should be doing for Trump.
Some scientists will have to join the White House itself. When George W. Bush was elected, his administration had a hard time finding a scientist willing to serve as his science advisor. When Jack Marburger, a highly respected administrator and physicist who was also a Democrat, took the job he was excoriated by his peers and excommunicated from some scientific circles. We see hints of similar responses to Trump’s election already. Earlier this week the American Physical Society issued a press release congratulating Trump on his victory and encouraging him to “make sustained and robust funding of scientific research a top priority.” The APS received so many complaints that it felt compelled to retract it and issue an apology.
Some have already written off Trump’s yet-to-be-named science advisor. For instance, Robert Cook-Deegan of Arizona State University says, “For Trump, I’m not sure [his science advisor] would matter, because there won’t be any ‘policy’ apparatus… Science won’t get much attention, except when it gets in the way or bolsters support for a political priority.” Marburger was called a “prostitute” upon taking the position under Bush.
There are thousands of political appointees, including many science positions, that will need to be nominated, expert advisory bodies constituted and reconstituted, and experts put into staff positions under the White House. Any scientist who agrees to hold their nose and work with the Trump administration should expect much of the same criticism received by Marburger. Some, such as government scientists, will not have much choice but to engage. That is their job. The rest of the scientific community must still ask itself some difficult questions. We suggest three:
Is money all that matters?
During the late stages of the presidential campaign, 69 Nobel Prize winners endorsed Hillary Clinton and pushed for more funding for research and policies that support the scientific workforce. They suggested that there were other reasons for their support, but focused on what the next president might do for the interests of the scientific community.
The incoming president of the American Geophysical Union expressed a similar concern: “There’s a fear that the scientific infrastructure in the U.S. is going to be on its knees… Everything from funding to being able to attract the global leaders we need to do basic science research.”
If Trump imagines that the scientific community could cause him trouble, one option would be to do what Nye Bevan did to reactionary doctors in setting up the NHS and “stuff their mouths with gold”. Trump could echo Obama’s rhetoric, promising to ‘restore science to its rightful place’ by increasing funding. It would be the Art of the Deal, and it would put critical scientists in a difficult position.
No one knows what Trump will do – on science or much else. However, the history of US science funding shows that Republican presidents “appear more eager to spend [money on R&D] than their Democratic counterparts”. Priorities have varied, with Democrats spending more through the Environmental Protection Agency and Commerce while Republicans spend more on Defense, the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. Overall spending on R&D is not well-correlated with party politics, mainly because science funding has long been a bipartisan priority. Other than the massive injections of cash through the Apollo programme and Obama’s smaller stimulus package more recently, non-defence science funding has remained pretty stable as a proportion of government discretionary spending since the end of World War Two.
Without much discussion of the fiscal consequences, Trump has announced grand plans for increases in US infrastructure investment. For science, this could mean high-profile funding for NASA. Perhaps Newt Gingrich will revive his vision of a Moon base and a mission to Mars. The military-industrial-scientific complex, demoted since the end of the Cold War, could receive a boost. Organisations that advocate for more science funding have already sought to tie in R&D funding with Trump’s calls for greater investment. Scientists need to consider how to react to possible increases in funding as well as express fears of decreases. In doing so, they might position themselves as representatives of the public good rather than just another special interest group.
Should pragmatism trump purity?
How should scientists engage on policy issues such as vaccination and climate change, where Republicans are often accused of being anti-science, or worse, at war with science? Despite Trump’s rhetorical nods to the social conservative wing of his party during the campaign and his enthusiasm for convenient conspiracy theories, he is clearly a pragmatist with little worry about changing his policy preferences.
Scientists should therefore ask themselves whether they would support policies that did what they regard as the right thing, but for the ‘wrong’ reasons. Policies focused on deploying electric vehicles and nuclear or wind power may be justified in purely economic rather than environmental terms. Alternatively, environmental regulations may provide convenient cover for the taxing of imports as the USA struggles to justify a new protectionism. When it comes to climate change, maybe the pragmatic business of policy design might finally take precedence over trying to convince a Republican Congress to see the world through a climate scientist’s eyes.
Two days after the election a spokesperson for ExxonMobil tweeted the company’s strong support of the Paris agreement on climate change. Many environmental scientists have long seen ExxonMobil as antithetical to their cause. Would they make peace with big oil in order to defend the Paris agreement? Or will the battle against perceived enemies of science now take place on multiple fronts?
It would be easy for scientists to bring back an opposition strategy focused on defending a so-called ‘war on science’. Much harder will be for the science community to support a government under the control of President Trump and a Republican Congress. Choices will have to be made. Scientists should be aware that the playbook that many followed to oppose President George W Bush may not work as well under a less ideologically-driven president.
Who really benefits from science and innovation?
Earlier this year, when a Trump presidency still seemed outlandish, science policy writer Colin Macilwain drew an uncomfortable picture in a Naturecommentary. Science, along with other elites, has systematically ignored the concerns of people such as those who voted for Trump or for Brexit.
According to Macilwain, experts, rather than challenging established interests, have often bolstered them, while pretending to remain distant from politics. Trump’s campaign tapped into a constituency that had been largely shut out from the benefits of technological progress and disproportionately suffered the consequences of expanding global trade.
US and European elites pretend that unfettered technology will not only grow the economy but also close the gap between rich and poor. A recent issue of Wired magazine brought Obama into conversation with the gurus of Silicon Valley. Tim O’Reilly hailed the magic bullets of innovation, telling Obama that, “The best way for the tech industry to tackle inequality is for it to do what it’s supposed to do: innovate in ways that create actual gains in growth and productivity”.
History tells us how bad this analysis is. Technology tends to widen the gap between rich and poor, simply because rich people are better able to take advantage of productivity gains than poor people. And yet the narrative of emancipatory technology continues. Meanwhile, Donald Trump gave an interview to Breitbart, a heavily partisan news site that has become depressingly relevant, in which he said, with reference to artificial intelligence, “I have always been concerned about the social breakdown of our culture caused by technology”. Now is the time to ask who really benefits from American innovation, and to rethink the responsibilities of scientists in engaging with inequality.
Scientists who choose not to engage with a Trump Administration risk fueling the resentment and disenchantment that brought it to power. The scientific community could respond to the populist surge by devoting more attention to understanding the consequences of technological innovation on society, while developing alternatives paths to ensure that its benefits are shared more equitably and negative consequences more effectively anticipated and blunted.
For scientists and other experts, the surprise election of Donald Trump to the US presidency comes with choices. Many of us were dismayed at the Brexit vote and now the election of Donald Trump. How we respond, inside our own communities and in relation to governments will determine whether we remain relevant or jeopardise the constructive role that we should play in policy and politics, regardless of our allegiances.