Trump Administration Is 'Abandoning Science,' Scientists Claim

A woman is seen demonstrating in front of a small pro-Trump counter-demonstration as scientists and supporters participate in a march for science on April 22, 2017. Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images

The White House has been sidelining advice from scientific advisory councils since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, according to a new analysis released Thursday.

The report titled "Abandoning Science Advice" by the nonprofit advocacy organization Union of Concerned Scientists found that science advisory committees had experienced "unprecedented" levels of disrespect and neglect from the White House and across agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Energy.

"Experts serving as members of federal advisory committees are being frozen out of the very avenues that were designed to encourage external input on scientific issues to the federal government," Genna Reed, a science and policy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists who worked on the report, wrote in a blog post. The number of federal science advisory committees fell by 20 percent last year, the report showed.

Trump has yet to appoint a presidential science adviser to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), an office that provides advice on scientific, engineering and technology issues to the president and executive office employees. According to the report, the number of staffers at OSTP dwindled from 130 in 2016 to a"skeletal" 38 in 2017.

A White House official told Newsweek that the OSTP had over 50 employees as of Thursday. "We've been bringing people on steadily throughout the year," said the official, who added that the White House intends to fill the positions, but declined to comment on a time frame or if the White House was looking to nominate someone to be the president's science adviser.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been criticized for censoring scientists. In October, the EPA barred its scientists from speaking at a conference in Rhode Island addressing climate change. By December, more than 200 scientists had left the agency.

"We plan to use our science boards fully to provide independent advice to the Agency. With the change in Administration this past year, and many new priorities for the Agency there is always time needed for the Agency to identify and prepare for scientific review," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement.

Wilcox added that the agency is expecting to fully use several scientific advisory committees "to ensure the highest quality independent advice to provide a foundation for the Agency's policies and decisions."

The report also noted that President Barack Obama appointed leading members to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology before his first inauguration, and former President George W. Bush nominated his presidential science adviser six months into his first term in office.

John Holdren, the former science adviser to Obama, told Newsweek in October 2017 that "if you don't have science and technology advice in the White House, you're going to miss opportunities to use science and technology to advance the rest of the leadership's agenda."

Thousands of scientists marched against the Trump administration's policies in April 2017. Marchers chanted "save the EPA" and "save the NIH," The New York Times reported.