Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trumped: Turning the lights out on science

I've often remarked to my students that certain social and political preconditions must be met in order for science to flourish. In particular, the polity in which science works must be willing to respect the internal norms of science.* We no longer live in that polity. Case in point:
Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency who want to publish or present their scientific findings likely will need to have their work reviewed on a "case by case basis" before it can be disseminated, according to a spokesman for the agency's transition team.
In an interview Tuesday evening with NPR, Doug Ericksen, the head of communications for the Trump administration's EPA transition team, said that during the transition period, he expects scientists will undergo an unspecified internal vetting process before sharing their work outside the agency.
"We'll take a look at what's happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that's going to reflect the new administration," Ericksen told NPR.
Ericksen did not say whether such a review process would become a permanent feature of Trump's EPA. "We're on Day 2 here. ... You've got to give us a few days to get our feet underneath us."
Any review would directly contradict the agency's current scientific integrity policy, which was published in 2012. It prohibits "all EPA employees, including scientists, managers and other Agency leadership from suppressing, altering, or otherwise impeding the timely release of scientific findings or conclusions."
Welcome to the coming dark ages. Let us chant a canticle for Leibowitz.

*Much more to say on this, but time is limited. But consider Kitcher's view of 'well-ordered science' in which democratic values infuse the operation and agenda of science; deference to scientific expertise is a precondition for this. 

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