Democrats Introduce Bill to Block ‘Trump’s Multi-Agency Assault’ on Science

March 18, 2019 by Dan McCue
Professor Eric Sanford, Ph.D., looks at a Scarlet Sea cucumber with a Leica M125 microscope in the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory on March 10, 2019 in Bodega Bay, Calif. He is looking at it from different vantage points. The image is projected onto the computer screen to the left. (Francine Orr/ Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Last week, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced legislation to address a “longstanding concern that has taken on newfound urgency,” political interference with publicly-funded scientific research.

The bill introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., called “Science Integrity Act” strives to make it so that political considerations do not factor into scientific conclusions.

It does so by prohibiting the suppression of scientific findings and by allowing scientists to answer media inquiries about their work without prior agency approval.

“Independent, rigorous scientific research is one of the most powerful tools we have for advancing the public interest and keeping the American people safe,” Tonko said in a joint statement he and Schatz released on Thursday.

“President Trump’s multi-agency assault on environmental standards has hinged on efforts to distort, bury and even rewrite credible public scientific findings, including his absurd denial of the growing climate crisis and efforts to cover up evidence that the American people are being exposed to dangerous toxins,” he said.

“These are challenging and unprecedented times for science,” Schatz said. “And while it’s not the first time it has been under attack, this time feels worse.

“That’s why we need to answer the call of our times and stand up for science,” the senator continued. “Our bill would protect government science from political interference. It would make data and findings off-limits for political appointees and managers, and make sure scientists follow careful processes for review.”

Among those who immediately endorsed the bill was the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In an email appeal to members, Danielle Fox, the organization’s campaign and science network manager, said that “with a new momentum for scientific integrity in Congress, we have a real chance for a legislative solution to stop the onslaught of the Trump administration’s attacks on federal scientists.”

She goes on to urge the union’s members to call on their legislators to sign on as cosponsors of the Act, reminding them that “when science is censored or manipulated, government decisions about our health, safety, and environment suffer.”

“Scientists need to be able to follow their research wherever it leads—without political interference—and share their findings honestly with the public,” Fox’s appeal says. “This legislation makes science-based policy solutions more likely on the full scale of issues that affect our lives, from chemicals in household products to sustainable, affordable food creation.”

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