Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Inevitably, actions lead to reactions

Among Trump's first executive actions were those designed to silence scientists employed by various Federal agencies. If you know anything about scientists is that regardless of our own ideological beliefs, we are devoted first and foremost to seeking out and reporting our data, and then we independently verify each others' findings. We want to report our findings to the public. I would offer that any of us who depend on any Federal funding - even indirectly - to conduct our research are obligated to the public to conduct sound research and report it directly to the public in layperson's terms. Social media are one very convenient means and necessary means to do so. If anything, I want us to become even more open.

As I mentioned, we may vary in terms of ideology, but we do share a common value to communicate the truth, even if it is inconvenient to whoever might occupy the White House, or Congress, or those who run and lobby for any of a number of special interest groups of various ideological stripes. We report findings even if they end up inconvenient to our own beliefs and pet theories. In other words, what I am trying to do is to communicate here is a core value held by those scientists in the traditional STEM disciplines as well as in the behavioral and social sciences. Any official or lobbyist who wishes to silence us for speaking the truth should expect us to push back.

Under the circumstances, I am not surprised to see news of a possible march by scientists in DC in the near future (as of yet I am unaware of a date). You can follow the Scientists' March on Washington twitter feed here, and their website is here. There is also a twitter feed for Rogue NASA and AltUSNatParkService. I imagine we will see more of this activity, as well as efforts to preserve data from being scrubbed by the current White House occupant. The thing about us scientists as that we really are among the last people to become activists. That is not our calling. We don't want to go to protests. We'd rather spend our time on our various research programs and educating the public, which is truly our calling. Regrettably, the current circumstances are going to require more and more in our various disciplines to do a rethink on our usual stance to politics.

I am an optimist in at least one sense. No matter what Trump and his advisors might intend to impose upon us, and no matter how much there is an ideological undercurrent in the US that is hostile to science and scientists, the enterprise of science globally is going to continue. There is a certain momentum to scientific discoveries and applications based upon those discoveries that is largely unstoppable, as E. O. Wilson has noted. The question becomes, does the US continue to have a leadership role in the further development of the sciences, or will the US be largely left out of the equation? If the latter, the US public will truly suffer. Scientists will speak out to prevent this latter scenario and hope that enough of the public will understand the importance of our work in the public interest.

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