Trump Transition News in Nature: Budget Situation, Scientists Respond

Here’s a pair of stories I’ve worked on recently on the transition to the Trump era and what that means for science. The second one was written by Heidi Ledford, Sara Reardon and me. Thanks as usual to Lauren Morello for help editing. Thanks also go to my very informative sources. At the end of this post, I’ve also included links to a couple related stories by my Nature colleagues, and I recommend checking them out, too.


Stopgap spending bill leaves US scientists in limbo

Proposal would keep funding flat for most research agencies, but cuts could come early next year.

In what has become a year-end tradition in Washington DC, the US Congress is getting ready to approve a stopgap spending measure before it adjourns for the holidays.

The legislation introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives would hold spending flat at most science agencies, with some limited increases. These include an extra US$872 million to implement provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill that would reform drug development and biomedical research. The money would be split between the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and state governments…

The stopgap funding bill, which would expire on 28 April, also allows for extra funding to keep a handful of major multiyear space programmes on track. These include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Joint Polar Satellite System, a series of probes designed to monitor Earth’s weather and climate, as well as NASA efforts to explore deep space and develop a replacement for the retired space shuttle.

But for most science programmes, funding would remain at roughly the same level as in the past fiscal year. And continuing to operate under a temporary funding measure means that agencies cannot start new programmes or end old ones without explicit permission from Congress.

“Every time you delay a [final] spending bill, it prevents the science agencies from doing the planning they need, and it keeps them in limbo,” says Lexi Shultz, director of public affairs for the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC…

Many researchers are more worried about what might come after this temporary funding extension, if it is approved. When president-elect Donald Trump takes office on 20 January 2017, Republicans will control the White House and both houses of Congress — and their science priorities are very different from those of outgoing President Barack Obama, a Democrat…

[For more, read the entire story in Nature, published on 7 December 2016.]


Immigrant and minority scientists shaken by Trump win

Worries include job prospects, discrimination — and safety.

As the US presidential election results rolled in, Naglaa Shoukry watched a door slam shut. An immunologist at the University of Montreal in Canada, she had been contemplating a move to the United States in search of better research funding. But when Donald Trump clinched the presidency, she knew that she would probably not go.

Shoukry, a Muslim from Egypt, did postdoctoral research in Ohio and was there when the United States tightened security after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. When Trump pledged to use “extreme vetting” to determine which immigrants could enter the country, Shoukry recalled the hum­iliations her family experienced when travel­ling to see her in Ohio. “You have an interesting name,” a US border official once told her brother, Mohamed, before detaining him for extra security checks. Under Trump, Shoukry decided, it would surely be worse.

(Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

(Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

Shoukry is not the only scientist shaken by the result of the 8 November election, nor is she alone in reconsidering whether to work or study in the United States. Trump’s campaign rhetoric was at times insulting to women, immigrants and under-represented minorities, and there are signs that his victory has further inflamed racial tensions. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights advocacy group in Montgomery, Alabama, collected 437 reports of intimidation and harassment in the five days after the election — many of which explicitly referenced president-elect Trump. Fifteen per cent of the incidents reported to the centre took place at universities.

Such events have led several universities and scientific societies to re­affirm their commitment to diversity. “Take concrete steps to protect and advocate for colleagues and students who are particularly vulnerable right now,” urges a letter signed by ten astronomers on the Astronomy in Color blog, which advocates for diversity in the field. “We must reiterate how absolutely essential it is to the core values of our community, and also to the well-being of our society and world, that all persons be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve,” wrote Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, when black undergraduates there received racist e-mails after the election. “We all stand together in solidarity with our Black students.”

Still, scientists around the country have reported harassment. Mónica Feliú-Mójer, a science communicator originally from Puerto Rico, is nervous about speaking Spanish in some public places after hearing a passer-by shout “Build that wall!” — referencing Trump’s plan to build a wall along the US–Mexico ­border. The 12 November incident took place in San Diego, California, where Feliú-Mójer was attending the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting…

[For more, read the entire story in Nature, published on 22 November 2016.]

Other relevant news stories:
Does it matter if Donald Trump has a science adviser?” by Alexandra Witze
Trump’s pick for environment agency chief sued government over climate rules” by Jeff Tollefson
Tracking the Trump transition, agency by agency” by Jeff Tollefson, Sara Reardon, Alexandra Witze & Heidi Ledford
Trump’s pick for US health secretary has pushed to cut science spending” by Sara Reardon
The ultimate experiment: How Trump will handle science” by Sara Reardon, Jeff Tollefson, Alexandra Witze & Lauren Morello

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