Energy & Environment

Study: White House abandoning science advice at unprecedented levels

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report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) on Thursday provides a stark portrayal of how the federal government’s relationship with scientists has deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office.
According to the report by UCS, a nonprofit group of independent scientists, the administration’s skeptical view of science advisers is represented by diminished staffing at the White House and across various government agencies.
President Trump is the first president in four decades to not appoint a presidential science adviser, the report said. Less than a third of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is full, with only 38 of 130 total positions filled. 
In terms of government posts at the National Academies of Science that are designated as “scientist appointees,” Trump has only filled 20 out of 77 positions. Comparatively, at the same point in their respective administrations, President Obama had 62 roles filled and President George W. Bush had filled 51. 
Looking at science advisory boards and committees across the various government agencies, the UCS study found that membership dropped 14 percent due to factors such as freezing of membership and disbanding of committees altogether. Examples include the Food and Drug Administration’s disbanded Food Advisory Committee and the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) disbanded climate science advisory committee.
The total number of science advisory committee meetings in 2017 also decreased 20 percent from 2016, the study found.
The drop in the frequency of meetings of science advisory boards was most notable at key federal science agencies: the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DOI. All three met less often in 2017 than at any time since 1997.
The findings confirmed promises made by various leaders within the Trump administration to increase the voices of the fossil fuel industry in advisory boards. 
For example, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has noted a desire to include more industry voices as a way to level the playing field. Earlier this year he also banned all experts who receive grants from the EPA from serving as advisers on any committee. 
Looking at the EPA specifically, the study found that looking forward to 2018, 23 percent of those sitting on the agency’s Science Advisory Board will be industry representatives, compared to only 6 percent in 2017. Also, 50 percent of individuals on the board will be from academia, compared to 79 percent in 2017.
Tags Advisory board Donald Trump Office of Science and Technology Policy Scott Pruitt United States Environmental Protection Agency
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