A lot has been written recently about science in the Trump administration, although we won't actually know what his related policies will look like for some time. Despite the efforts of groups like ScienceDebate, which pressed candidates to address science and technology along the campaign trail, these topics didn't come up much before November 8th. Going forward, here's what you need to know:
Trump also doesn't have a record on many science issues, and he's flip flopped on topics like climate change where he does. For example, there was the 2009 NY Times ad he signed urging climate action, but more recently he tweeted that global warming is a hoax. So far, his cabinet appointments have not been encouraging, but we just don't know where Trump's priorities as commander in chief will be beginning next year.
One thing that's certain is that it's important to come together in the science community and work to be better communicators. We need to identify common messages where we can, so that we're not talking to lawmakers with too many unrelated themes on a single topic. When that happens, our combined efforts become counterproductive and having worked in Congress, I've seen it occur too frequently.
We do already know that some of the promises Trump has made during his campaign are unlikely to take place. For example - the coal industry isn't coming back. We will probably see a roll back on regulations related to environmental protections and it's also unclear what funding for R&D will look like (currently well less than 4% of the federal budget). Expect a good deal of science funding to take a hit, with anticipated cuts to basic research, possibly climate science and potentially areas related to evolution.
Which brings me back to coordination and messaging. Often academics, ngos, and various societies compete for resources and a voice in the policy discussion. Working to be on the same page when we meet with our representatives and in public forums will be crucial. We must stay vigilant together, especially on topics like climate change policy, that will set the course for how humans live for generations.
Last week, Robert rightly encouraged scientists and engineers to apply for one of over 4,000 presidential-appointed positions in the federal government. But I challenge others to go one step further. Consider politics as a rewarding and viable career trajectory. We need more scientific expertise in the policy-making process.
If you have a degree in STEM, why not run for office? It's not a new idea, Chris Mooney and I discussed this in depth in Unscientific America nearly a decade ago. But as we look toward 2018, I'm hopeful that more within the science community will seek leadership positions in Congress and local government.
Yes, it may be a damaging four years for research, innovation, the economy (driven by R&D), and the environment - some irrevocable. But that's not reason to lose hope. Instead it's a challenge to all of us to get involved. We must be more dedicated than ever to work for change.