Washington: US President Joe Biden’s administration would investigate former President Donald Trump’s political interference in science across the government, the first step in what White House officials described as a sweeping effort to rebuild a demoralized federal workforce and prevent future abuses.
According to The New York Times, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy–in a letter to the leaders of all federal agencies–announced on Monday the formation of a task force aimed at identifying past tampering in scientific decisions. It will review the effectiveness of policies that were supposed to protect the science that informs policy decisions from inappropriate political influence and develop policies for the future.
“Restoring and safeguarding scientific integrity will require the participation and contribution of scientists from across government, who will bring their diverse perspectives to the endeavor, including type and size of the agency, scientific or technological discipline, stage of career, methodology, and personal and professional background,” the letter read, as quoted by The Hill.
Jane Lubchenco, the office’s deputy director for climate and the environment, told The New York Times, “We know that there were blatant attempts to distort, to cherry-pick and disregard science – we saw that across multiple agencies.”
The Hill reported that the announcement comes on the heels of long-standing allegations by career scientific officials that they were sidelined under the Trump presidency.
Joel Clement, a former Interior Department official, testified in 2019 that he was transferred from a role focusing on climate to accounting, while Maria Caffrey testified that the department pressured her to remove references to human causes of climate change from a report on how sea level increases would affect national parks.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced a similar move last week, with Administrator Michael Regan asking employees to convey “any items of concern” to scientific integrity personnel, according to The Hill.
“Manipulating, suppressing, or otherwise impeding science has real-world consequences for human health and the environment,” Regan, said in an agency-wide email Tuesday, according to NYT. “When politics drives science rather than science informing policy, we are more likely to make policy choices that sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable among us.”