Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work – The New York Times

“n just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Mo., the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research….”

Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work – The New York Times

“n just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.

But the erosion of science reaches well beyond the environment and climate: In San Francisco, a study of the effects of chemicals on pregnant women has stalled after federal funding abruptly ended. In Washington, D.C., a scientific committee that provided expertise in defending against invasive insects has been disbanded. In Kansas City, Mo., the hasty relocation of two agricultural agencies that fund crop science and study the economics of farming has led to an exodus of employees and delayed hundreds of millions of dollars in research….”

EPA employees push ‘bill of rights’ to protect scientific integrity | TheHill

“Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unionized employees have drafted a bill of rights, asking the agency to recognize the need for scientific integrity, research into climate science and the ability to enforce environmental laws without political interference….”

Science Under Attack: How Trump Is Sidelining Researchers and Their Work – The New York Times

“In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects nationwide, marking a transformation of the federal government whose effects, experts say, could reverberate for years.

Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus….”

Turkish Constitutional Court rules that the two and a half year block of Wikipedia is unconstitutional – Wikimedia Foundation

“Today, the Turkish Constitutional Court has held that the more than two and a half year access ban of Wikipedia in Turkey was unconstitutional. We hope that access will be restored in Turkey soon in the light of this new ruling from Turkey’s highest court and will update this statement if we receive notification that the block has been lifted. We join the people of Turkey, and the millions of readers and volunteers who rely on Wikipedia around the world, to welcome this important recognition for universal access to knowledge….”

Turkey’s block on Wikipedia violates rights, court rules – Reuters

“Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that a more than two-year block on access to online encyclopaedia Wikipedia in the country is a violation of freedom of expression.

The ruling opens the way for lifting the website ban, which has been in place since 2017 due to entries that accused Turkey of having links to terrorist organisations….”

Federal Toxmap Shutters, Raising the Ire of Pollution Researchers

“Fifteen years ago the U.S. National Library of Medicine launched Toxmap, a free, interactive online application that combines pollution data from at least a dozen U.S. government sources. A Toxmap user could pan and zoom across a map of the United States sprinkled with thousands of blue and red dots, with each blue dot representing a factory, coal-fired power plant, or other facility that has released certain toxic chemicals into the environment, and each red dot marking a Superfund program site — “some of the nation’s most contaminated land,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Toxmap allowed users to pull up detailed EPA data for each toxic release site, and to overlay other information, such as mortality statistics, onto those maps. And it’s precisely those capabilities that earned Toxmap a devoted following among researchers, students, activists, and other people keen to identify sources of pollution in their communities.

Those capabilities appear to no longer be available to the public.

Earlier this year, with little explanation, the NLM announced that it would be “retiring” the Toxmap website on Dec. 16, 2019. The library did not respond directly to queries on Monday about what was meant by “retiring,” but by Tuesday morning, the Toxmap website had been taken down and visitors to the former URL were met with a message acknowledging the closure and pointing visitors to other potential sources of information. (An archived version of the old Toxmap landing page is preserved at the Internet Archive.) …”

EPA’s ‘transparency rule’ is bad for science and the environment – STAT

“A proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that allegedly aims to strengthen transparency in regulatory science suggests that science is broken. It isn’t.

We know it works because we can see the life-saving transplant technologies, hurricane forecasts, new medications, pest-resistant crops, and countless other breakthroughs that exist because of science. This discipline isn’t perfect, but it is the best tool available to safeguard the planet and its people.

Last year, the EPA proposed a rule requiring that scientists disclose all raw data before any study conclusions would be considered. The rule, titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science,” would apply retroactively to regulations already in place. It would make it harder to enact new regulations, because many studies from the past rely on personal medical information that was collected under confidentiality agreements and include consensus from reports that may not have shared all of the data according in ways compliant with the proposed rule….”

Joint statement on EPA proposed rule and public availability of data (2019) | Science

“Eighteen months after articulating our concerns (1) regarding the 2018 “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” rule proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2), we have become more concerned in response to recent media coverage and a 13 November hearing on the role of science in decision-making at the EPA. These events suggest that the proposed rule is now moving toward implementation; whether it includes amendments sufficient to address the concerns raised by us and many others remains a question.

Our previous statement on the proposed rule, authored and published by the editors-in-chief of five major scientific journals in May 2018, reflected alarm that the proposal’s push for “transparency” would be used as a mechanism for suppressing the use of relevant scientific evidence in policy-making, including public health regulations. After the public comment period for the proposed rule closed, the EPA reported more than 590,000 comments from individuals and scientific, medical, and legal groups, many of which articulated similar concerns (3).

As leaders of peer-reviewed journals, we support open sharing of research data, but we also recognize the validity of scientific studies that, for confidentiality reasons, cannot indiscriminately share absolutely all data. Datasets featuring personal identifiers—including studies evaluating genomes of thousands of people to characterize medically relevant genetic variants—are but one example. Such data may be critical to developing new drugs or diagnostic tools but cannot be shared openly; even anonymized personal data can be subject to re-identification, and it has been a longstanding practice for agencies and journals to acknowledge the value of data privacy adjustments. The principles of careful data management, as they inform medicine, are just as applicable to data regarding environmental influences on public health. Discounting evidence from the decision-making process on the basis that some data are confidential runs counter to the EPA stated mission “to reduce environmental risks…based on the best available scientific information” (4)….

We urge the EPA to continue to adopt an approach that ensures the data used in decision-making are the best available, which will at times require consideration of peer-reviewed scientific data, not all of which may be open to all members of the public. The most relevant science, vetted through peer review, should inform public policy. Anything less will harm decision-making that claims to protect our health….”

The Executive Branch Must Stop Suppressing Science – Scientific American Blog Network

“For much of my time in public service, there were some things government officials did just because they were the right things to do—and that included respecting the research done by government scientists. That respect has faded over recent presidencies. Sharpie-gate may have been its death knell. …

Earlier this year, General Robert Neller, then commandant of the Marine Corps, wrote to the Secretary of the Navy about the damage from storms: “The combat readiness of II Marine Expeditionary Force—1/3 the combat power of the Marine Corps—is degraded and will continue to degrade,” he asserted. We have to be better prepared for the impacts of climate change. But that goal will be impossible if political officials act in bad faith by distorting or suppressing government research on climate science….

 

To help rebuild ethics, integrity and trust in government—including trust in its research and data—I joined a nonpartisan task force of former government officials concerned about the executive branch’s growing disregard for norms and unwritten rules that had formerly kept its power in check. Recently,our group, the National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy—a project of the Brennan Center for Justice—published a report proposing legislation that would effectively respond to the numerous instances we catalogued of federal officials censoring scientific information, changing scientific findings to suit political agendas and retaliating against government scientists because their research was politically inconvenient….”

Ninth Circuit: Courts Can Force Feds to Put Records Online

“In a decision that will expand the power of courts to make government agencies post information online, the Ninth Circuit this week reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the removal of animal welfare compliance data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

“The decision from the Ninth Circuit is a major victory for public advocates using the Freedom of Information Act,” said Christopher Berry, senior staff attorney for plaintiff Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

ALDF and three other groups sued the USDA in 2017 after it abruptly pulled animal welfare compliance data offline, a move the plaintiffs say frustrates their missions to fight animal cruelty and monitor government enforcement.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III dismissed the suit in August 2017, finding courts lack power to force government agencies to make documents available to the public at large, as opposed to individual requesters, under the Freedom of Information Act.

A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel overruled Orrick’s decision Thursday, finding the law authorizes courts to make agencies stop holding back records which they have a duty to make available in “virtual reading rooms” online….”

Ninth Circuit: Courts Can Force Feds to Put Records Online

“In a decision that will expand the power of courts to make government agencies post information online, the Ninth Circuit this week reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the removal of animal welfare compliance data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

“The decision from the Ninth Circuit is a major victory for public advocates using the Freedom of Information Act,” said Christopher Berry, senior staff attorney for plaintiff Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

ALDF and three other groups sued the USDA in 2017 after it abruptly pulled animal welfare compliance data offline, a move the plaintiffs say frustrates their missions to fight animal cruelty and monitor government enforcement.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III dismissed the suit in August 2017, finding courts lack power to force government agencies to make documents available to the public at large, as opposed to individual requesters, under the Freedom of Information Act.

A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel overruled Orrick’s decision Thursday, finding the law authorizes courts to make agencies stop holding back records which they have a duty to make available in “virtual reading rooms” online….”

I’m a scientist. Under Trump I lost my job for refusing to hide climate crisis facts | Maria Caffrey | Opinion | The Guardian

“The Trump administration’s hostility towards climate science is not new. Interior climate staffer Joel Clement’s reassignment and the blocking of intelligence aide Rod Schoonover’s climate testimony, which forced both federal employees to resign in protest, are just two of the innumerable examples. These attempts to suppress climate science can manifest themselves in many ways. It starts with burying important climate reports and becomes something more insidious like stopping climate scientists from doing their jobs. In February 2019, I lost my job because I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration. And yet my story is no longer unique.

This is why on 22 July I filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration. But this is not the only part to my story; I will also speak to Congress on 25 July about my treatment and the need for stronger scientific integrity protections….

It was while I was on leave that I received an email from another climate scientist at the NPS who warned me that the senior leadership was ordering changes to my report without my knowledge. They had scrubbed of any mention of the human causes of the climate crisis. This was not normal editorial adjustment. This was climate science denial….

The NPS [National Parks Service] continued to retaliate against me. I was forced to accept pay cuts and demotions while I continued to lead several other projects. By February of this year, the NPS declined to renew my funding, despite common knowledge that my branch at the time had ample surplus funding….”

DOAJ: handmaiden to despots? or, OA, we need to talk | Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir les savoirs communs

“As any movement grows and flourishes, decisions made will turn out to have unforeseen consequences. Achieving the goals of the movement requires critical reflection and occasional changes in policy and procedure.The purpose of this post is to point out that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) appears to be inadvertently acting as a handmaiden to at least one despotic government, facilitating dissemination of works subject to censorship and rejecting open access journals that would be suitable venues for critics of the despotic government. There is no blame and no immediately obvious remedy, but solving a problem begins with acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion of how to avoid and solve the problem. OA friends, please consider this such an invitation….”

Our legal case against Turkey’s block of Wikipedia has been expedited. Here’s what that means. – Wikimedia Foundation

“Today, the Wikimedia Foundation welcomes the news that our case brought before  the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to lift the block of Wikipedia in Turkey has been communicated to the Turkish Government and given priority status by the court, just two months after the case was filed with the court. Priority status is granted rarely and reserved for the most important, serious, and urgent cases before the court and signals the critical impact our case could have in curbing government censorship online.

Two years ago, the Turkish government blocked Wikipedia. We believe free access to knowledge and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights, and by blocking Wikipedia, the Turkish government violated these rights for everyone living in the country. After extensive discussions with the Turkish government and challenging the block in Turkish courts, we were left with no choice but to bring our petition to the ECHR, an international court which hears cases of human rights violations within the Council of Europe….”