Top scientists who lead 29 major scientific organizations in the United States have sent a letter to President-elect Trump urging him to quickly appoint a "respected" assistant to the president for science and technology.
"As President you will face a wide range of domestic and international challenges, from protecting national and energy security, to ensuring U.S. economic competitiveness, curing diseases, and responding to natural disasters. These challenges share one thing in common: the need for scientific knowledge and technological expertise to address them successfully," the scientists wrote in their Nov. 23 letter to Trump.
The group, including the heads of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society and the American Chemical Society, stressed that the appointee should be "a nationally respected leader with the appropriate engineering, scientific, management and policy skills necessary for this critically important role."
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So far in his campaign and post-election appointments, President-elect Trump has hardly inspired confidence among mainstream scientists.
He tapped climate change denier (and non-scientist), Myron Ebell, to head up the transition at the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump, himself, has said in a 2012 tweet, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
Trump has said that he would like to dismantle the Paris Agreement, which nearly 200 countries agreed to last December in an effort to reverse the effects of global warming. And, in ScienceDebate, an online forum for presidential candidates to speak on science topics, Trump stated, "There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of 'climate change.'"
Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, has gone on record opposing stem cell research and remained ambiguous when asked about his stance on evolution in July 2016.
Despite the future Trump administration's record on the sciences so far, the signatories to the letter, dated Nov. 23 and made public Monday evening, were not challenging to President-elect Trump. Instead, the science leaders, perhaps strategically, underscored an issue known to be central in Trump's campaign: the economy.
"The economic benefits of advancements in science, technology and innovation have been well documented, estimated by leading economists to have accounted for approximately half of U.S. economic growth over the last fifty years," they wrote.
"If we are to maintain America's global leadership, and respond to the economic and security challenges currently facing the nation, we must build on our strong history of federal support for innovation, entrepreneurship and science and technology."
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The position of adviser on science and technology to the president is not new. Currently John Holdren holds the position in President Obama's administration. Holdren's credentials were substantial. He was the Teresa and John Heinz professor of environmental policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Director of the Woods Hole Research Center.
Will a science adviser under Trump be equally experienced? For now, the 29 science leaders struck a positive tone, saying they are "looking forward to working" with the president-elect and hope to "assist with developing a path forward to ensure that the U.S. innovation infrastructure grows and flourishes under your administration and to suggest candidates for top science and technology posts."
Here is a copy of the letter, and below is the list of organizations whose heads signed the letter:
American Association for the Advancement of Science;
American Astronomical Society;
American Chemical Society;
American Geophysical Union;
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering;
American Institute of Physics;
American Physical Society;
American Physiological Society;
American Society for Microbiology (ASM);
American Society of Plant Biologists;
American Sociological Association;
Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS);
American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME);
Association for Psychological Science;
Association of American Universities;
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities;
Coalition for Life Sciences;
Consortium for Ocean Leadership;
Consortium of Social Science Associations;
Council of Scientific Society Presidents;
Ecological Society of America;
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology;
Rescuing Biomedical Research;
SIGMA Xi, The Scientific Research Society;
Society for Neuroscience;
The American Society for Cell Biology; and The Optical Society.
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