Documenting the Donald Trump War on Science: Pre-Inauguration Edition

Update 2017.01.31: First post-inauguration chronology post is done, covering the first week of the Trump administration.

From the point of view of someone sitting North of the Canadian/US border, the results of this week's US Federal election are somewhat terrifying. And honestly and truly as a Canadian and a Torontonian, I say this without a bit of smugness. Been there, done that, if not quite on the same scale.

And by done that, I mean that I've often seen my mission to document important stories in the world. In the past, mostly Canadian or mostly in the library world and all basically about science.

This time around, I'm going to start a project about science in the new Donald Trump administration. I believe Trump will be terrible for science, technology, the environment and public health. And I intend to document that here. Of course, Trump won't be terrible for science in exactly the same way that Harper was in Canada. For example, he may not target research funding in the same way. On the other hand, the environment may fare much worse and ultimately muzzling may also prove to be a problem. It's only over the course of the next couple of years that we'll really and truly get a sense of the implications.

But why wait until we see the share of how exactly Trump is bad for science to start keeping track?

I like what David Kipen said today in the LA Times.

If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.

First Responder -- Information Division is a role I can live with.

Like Anil Dash says, "Forget “Why?”, it’s time to get to work."

Don’t waste a single moment listening to the hand-wringing of the pundit class about Why This Happened, or people on TV talking about What This Means. The most important thing is that we focus on the work that needs to be done now. While so many have been doing what it takes to protect the marginalized and to make society more just, we must increase our urgency on those efforts, even while we grieve over this formidable defeat.

It is completely understandable, and completely human, to be depressed, demoralized or overwhelmed by the enormity of this broad embrace of hateful rhetoric and divisive policy. These are battles that have always taken decades to fight, and progress has never been smooth and steady — we’ve always faced devastating setbacks. If you need to take time to mourn, then do. But it’s imperative that we use our anger, our despair, our disbelief to fuel an intense, focused and effective campaign to protect and support the marginalized.

And it has to start now.

My small contribution is focusing on the effects the Trump administration will have on science, technology, the environment and public health. (As with my Canadian project, I consider healthcare funding models outside of my scope.)

So let's get started. I have a few sections to this post. The first will focus on documenting what happened before November 8, 2016. What he said about science and the environment. The second section will focus on commentary in the past few days since the election. The third section will be similar, but focusing on the implications for Canada. The final section will begin documenting actual anti-science actions and policies (yay, we already have a couple!)

Wish me luck. As usual, everyone should feel free to suggest things I've missed, either in the comments or privately at I'm not attempting to be comprehensive or complete in the commentary I'm picking up, but I do want to attempt to be fairly representative.


Pre-Election Commentary


Post-Election Commentary


Post-Election Commentary Added November 21, 2016


Post-Election Commentary Related to Implications for Canada


And finally, the beginning of the tally of cuts, etc.


Some Meta-Commentary Related More to Activism than Directly to Science


To repeat. This initial list is quick and very preliminary. Please let me know if there's anything you think I should include, either in the comments or at I'm not attempting to be comprehensive or complete in the commentary I'm picking up, but I do want to attempt to be fairly representative.

If I've missed anything or if anything I've included probably shouldn't be included, let me know and I'll take a look and evaluate.

I will be updating this master list as time goes by.


Update 2016.11.21. Quite a bit of commentary added, as well as some general info related to activism and resistance. One incident added, related to Steve Bannon. I'm treading a fine line between "what might happen and it would be bad" and "this is a thing that we know is actually happening." Probably the announcement of the actual cabinet will bring more information on the what the Trump presidency will mean for science, the environment and public health.
Update 2016.12.06. Quite a bit added again, lots of commentary and "meta" items. In particular, as the cabinet and other appointments are fleshed out, there's more to identify as issues.


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Thanks so much for this. This is important work and I very much appreciate you taking this on.

By Amy Csizmar Dalal (not verified) on 11 Nov 2016 #permalink

Don’t worry, John.
When anthropogenic climate change causes NYC and LA to be under water in 2024, Trump’s endorsed successor may lose in a landslide.
(But I wouldn’t bet on either happening.)

“If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism.”

Librarians and book worms to the rescue!

Do people still go to libraries?

Are there any “science” issues besides AGW?

By See Noevo (not verified) on 11 Nov 2016 #permalink

Thanks for the legwork on this issue, getting it on the record all in one place.

By mark henderson (not verified) on 11 Nov 2016 #permalink

Amy, Mark, You're welcome.

See, isn't climate change enough? It's kind of the defining issues of our times? And we're talking three days after the election so we'll just have to see what develops.

Potential issues include protection of the environment as a whole and funding levels and priorities for science research, the same kinds of issues as with the Harper government in Canada. Muzzling of scientists ability to speak freely about their research was a concern as well and it's possible that could become an issue.

Like I said, we'll see.

To John #4:

Me: “Are there any “science” issues besides AGW?”

John D.: “See, isn’t climate change enough? It’s kind of the defining issues of our times? And we’re talking three days after the election so we’ll just have to see what develops.”

Well, we may disagree about whether AGW is “science”,
but whatever the hell it is, we’re told the “science” is SETTLED.
So, no more need to spend money and time on *that* “science”.
NOW, it’s a matter of political decisions on what to do about the “settled science” of AGW.
And I suspect under a Trump presidency we’ll be doing a hell of a lot less than under Hellary, the wicked witch of the west.
And that’s a good thing.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 13 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Do people still go to libraries?"

Coming from someone who never went to a library (you) that is a worthless question.

sn illustrates perfectly the anti-science - indeed, the anti-education- push of the modern right, not just trump. Any bit of science that they don't like must be silenced, and the statements of anyone with a degree in science must be completely ignored.

we will be seeing the trump presidency doing a lot less than, well, than that of the presidency of any decent person. That is the problem - there is no trace of decency around trump, or the leaders of the modern right as a group.

"Trump won’t be terrible for science in exactly the same way that Harper was in Canada."

My first thought was that today's announcement that NASA's Earth science funding would be cut because it's being used to "politicize" science seems right out of the Stephen Harper playbook. You can't read about science that we don't do.

This is great John! Thank you for taking on this effort after doing such a wonderful job of tracking the war on science in your own country!

I just started a similar list, available here: My list is not as comprehensive as yours but I wanted to share in case I spotted something you haven't.

I'm particularly focused on the retention of open data policies (related to my library work) and the continued access to all scientific information (no muzzling, no deletion of information, retention of open access initiatives, etc.).

Thanks and keep up the good work!

By Kristin Briney (not verified) on 15 Dec 2016 #permalink

Thanks, Kristin. The more the merrier when it comes to a project like this! I'm sure we'll end up more complementary than anything.