Monday, August 10, 2020
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Is Trump at war with science?

The New York Times reports that President Donald Trump would like to propose a budget that, while expanding spending on the military, cuts funding for scientific and medical research.

A diagram showing the fracking process

A few specific reductions from the budget Mr Trump would like to see approved are a $250 million annual grant program administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education,” the earth sciences division at NASA, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation.

The cuts continue a trend, for the most part. Federal funding for cancer research, which soared from a little more than $4 billion in 1998 to almost $7 billion in 2002 and dropped back to a little under $6 billion by 2008, has been reduced by about 14.3 percent in the 2008–2014 time frame, for example.

I don’t really worry too much about the ingenuity of our best scientists to work with whatever happens in the budget that actually gets passed. I know he innovative minds like those at NIH know how to deal with the “use it or lose it” reality of sponsored research grants.

The big problem here is that the president of the United States seems to be encouraging disregard for learning in general, wanting people to rely instead on half-baked ideas about how things work instead of putting our best minds to work on real problems, like fixing Obamacare. The top science adviser to the president, a position heavily relied upon during the Obama years, is still vacant and Mr Trump has shown no signs of filling it any time soon.

And for Mr Trump to appoint Rick Perry, a flagrant climate change denier, to head the Department of Energy was a real blow to scientific research. These people make decisions that shape our planet. I mean, we can always turn around a failing business or even change laws, but once you chop down a hundred-year-old tree or fracture the earth’s bedrock, it’s gone forever.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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