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At March for Science, Federal Researchers Weather Trump Storm

At March for Science, Federal Researchers Weather Trump Storm
From Wired - April 14, 2018

Attendance at this weekends March for Science is expected to be lower than last year's, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest the Trump administration and its science policies. Many anti-Trump protesters say their attention is now focused on other forms of action, such as filing lawsuits to overturn new rules, or recruiting scientists to run for office in local, state, and congressional offices.

Part of what we wanted to see from the march last year was to take the anger and energy and excitement and put it to work in their local communities, says Shaughnessy Naughton, director of 314 Action, a group that takes its name from the first three numerals of pi and is dedicated to recruiting and advising candidates with STEM backgrounds to run for public office. So far, the group has endorsed 50 candidates (all Democrats) in school board, state legislature, and congressional mid-term races.

Naughton says polling shows the general public trusts scientists, and that trust can help in coming up with evidence-based policy prescriptions. Scientists represent the outsider status,people who arent beholden to politics as usual and that does resonate with folks, she says. It also gives credibility on the most important issues of education, health care, the environment or gun safety. It can take them outside Democrat or Republican talking points.

Naughton wont make this years march in Washington, DC, or one planned in her home town of Philadelphia. Neither will Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a Silver Spring, Maryland-based group that has filed numerous lawsuits in the past year to obtain information from the EPA, Department of the Interior, and other federal science-based agencies. Ruch has been hearing directly from many federal scientists about the administrations policies. The impression he gets is that the Trump administration has been ignoring science, rather than suppressing it.

Its more benign neglect, Ruch says of Trump-administration leadership at various agencies. Science isnt being used to inform decision making. They dont need it, they arent interested in it. At the same time, he adds, agencies are issuing new rules or repealing old ones to benefit industry without using scientific justification for the changes. Scientific information isnt figuring into public policy, and in many instances the decisions are more vulnerable to court challenges."

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