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Sat Jun 22, 2019, 09:09 AM

Nature: Trump's plan would make government stupid

This article was published in Nature's opinion and commentary section: Trump’s plan would make government stupid (Dr. Gretchen Goldman, Nature 570, 417 (2019))

This commentary is probably open sourced.

Political leaders in most functioning democracies have established checks and laws to ensure that their countries are guided by knowledge. On 14 June, President Donald Trump took one of his biggest steps yet to dismantle an important part of this system in the United States: an executive order that federal agencies should cut the number of advisory panels by at least one-third.

This is not just another of his ill-informed policies, or one that only wonks care about. It is the government making itself stupid. Ignoring, suppressing or manipulating science advice has been a pattern of this administration; now the very committees that provide that advice are being eliminated.

Scientists must sound the alarm...

...The committees now under threat also help the public to hold decision-makers accountable when they ignore important evidence. In 2008, the administration of George W. Bush — and in 2011, that of Barack Obama — failed to set a standard for ambient levels of ozone (an air pollutant that causes respiratory and cardiovascular distress) that the seven-member Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended. The recommendation enabled the public to challenge the administrations’ decisions. Without an advisory committee, the lines between science assessments and policy decisions are blurred.

The executive order is ostensibly a cost-cutting measure. But federal advisory committees are a bargain for taxpayers. Agency staff run a few meetings a year, alongside other duties, and some compensation is granted for economy-class travel and other expenses that committee members incur. According to the US Federal Advisory Committee Act Database, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee spent US$951,860 in 2018, of which only $110,540 went to direct committee costs. (The rest went to existing staff members, who would have been paid anyway.) Thousands of world-class specialists donate their time to help the government to make informed decisions.

Also, every meeting of an advisory committee solicits public comments. This gives community advocates and people without easy access to government officials a way to make their views known. The upcoming cull will give the public less opportunity for input...

...Our analysis found that, in the first year of the Trump administration, federal science advisory committees met less frequently than in any of the 21 years since the government started tracking them. Nearly two-thirds of these committees met less often than their charters direct. We have also logged more than 100 attacks on the use and communication of science in the Trump administration so far, more than for any other president. These include avoiding or removing terms such as ‘climate change’, halting a study by the US National Academy of Sciences and reversing a decision to ban a pesticide linked to neurological conditions in children...

...James Madison, the fourth president and a founding father of the United States, wrote, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” We owe it to ourselves and our expertise, to the United States and the many other nations affected by its decisions — on emissions, infectious agents, drugs and so much more — to insist on being governed by knowledge, not ignorance. Speaking up for science panels is speaking up for democracy...

I should note that I personally abhor the organization for which Dr. Goldman works, the Union of Concerned Scientists. Usually, when naming the organization I put the word Scientists in quotes, but haven't here, since Dr. Goldman is a scientist, an atmospheric scientist. I would imagine that she successfully compartmentalizes, since that part of her organization led by Dr. Ed Lyman has done more to make air pollution the killer it is by elevating his highly and obviously flawed and frankly paranoid claims about what could happen well over the reality of what is happening, to my lungs, your lungs, and in fact the lungs of every living thing on Earth.

However, to avoid the logical fallacy of "poisoning the well" aka ad hominem, I must state that when a member of that organization states truths, they are truths, irrespective of the platform from which they arise.

As much as I personally despise Ed Lyman, his colleague here, Dr. Goldman, has made an important and valid point, and I applaud it.

The scientific advisory boards cost far less than the bill for Trump's opportunities to cheat at golf.

I trust you'll have a nice weekend.

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Reply Nature: Trump's plan would make government stupid (Original post)
NNadir Jun 2019 OP
beachbum bob Jun 2019 #1
xocet Jun 2019 #2

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Jun 22, 2019, 09:23 AM

1. that is a plan so whats the problem? Elections have consequences and we have this going on becasue


of it.

The price we pay for letting real evil be elected. No surprise at all

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Sat Jun 22, 2019, 11:48 AM

2. Interesting article...

Could you please elaborate on your position on the UCS?

I am unfamiliar with any controversial activity regarding air pollution that they have undertaken and would like to know more. It is not apparent from their website that they have anything controversial to offer:


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