Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET on November 9, 2018.
The Trump administration is breaking with 75 years of precedent by attempting to interfere in how science is practiced by the U.S. government, according to three experts who issued a dire warning to their profession in the journal Science on Thursday. The administration is empowering political staff to meddle with the scientific process by pushing through reforms disguised to look as though they boost transparency and integrity, the experts say.
“It is tempting to conclude that recent proposals for reforming regulatory science are similar to what has occurred in the past,” they write. “They are not.”
“People who are not scientists are telling us how scientific synthesis and analysis should be done,” says Wendy Wagner, a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the authors of the paper. “We’re not even getting scientists’ best work. We’re tying scientists’ hands behind their back and not even giving them a shot.”
“It’s a very dangerous place for science and public policy,” she told me. “Politics has gone to a place that should be off limits, and no one is noticing and calling them on that fact.”
The experts’ warning may prove particularly damaging to the reforms’ success. One of the Trump reforms that most worries Wagner claims to be inspired by a 2009 study from the Bipartisan Policy Center and a 2013 report by the Administrative Conference of the United States. A statement from the Environmental Protection Agency also cited both of those studies for authority.