Signaling great pessimism about the future "role of science in policymaking," more than 2,000 scientists published an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump and the GOP-dominated 115th Congress on Wednesday warning against the dangers of allowing "political or corporate influence" to override scientific fact.
"From disease outbreaks to climate change to national security to technology innovation, people benefit when our nation's policies are informed by science unfettered by inappropriate political or corporate influence," stated the letter (pdf), organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and signed by 2,300 scientists, including 22 Nobel Prize winners.
Many of Trump's advisors and potential cabinet nominees have not made their skepticism over climate change, women's reproductive health, and other scientific matters a secret. Without naming names, the letter goes on to state that, "Federal agencies should be led by officials with demonstrated track records of respecting science as a critical component of decision making."
The scientists also made clear the importance of existing, scientifically-valid public health and environmental regulations, many of which Trump has vowed to slash upon taking office.
Congress and Trump, they said, must "ensure our nation's bedrock public health and environmental laws—such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act—retain a strong scientific foundation, and that agencies are able to freely collect and draw upon scientific data to effectively carry out statutory responsibilities established by these laws."
Further, they explained the importance of adhering to "high standards of scientific integrity and independence in responding to current and emerging public health and environmental threats."
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"Decision makers and the public need to know what the best-available scientific evidence is, not what vested interests might wish it to be," the scientists continued. "Federally funded scientists must be able to develop and share their findings free from censorship or manipulation based on politics or ideology" and "without fear of reprisal or retaliation," they wrote.
As the Washington Post noted, the letter "echoes a previous one" also released by the UCS "that was directed at Bush in 2004," after his office had already seen "multiple science-related scandals."
Alternately, Wednesday's letter is seen as a pre-emptive move, given the signals being sent from the Trump camp.
"Twelve years ago, the Republican president was...very crude in the way they dealt with science," signatory Lewis Branscomb, a physicist at the University of California at San Diego, told the Post. "They very often had political people in the government rewriting reports that scientists in the government had written. That sort of thing happened."
"And now," Branscomb added, "we're looking at the kinds of people that Trump is appointing, and we have no good reason to be optimistic about what they're going to do."
The distinguished signatories hail from all 50 states and include "medical scientists, physicists, and many climate researchers," the Post notes.