Trump and Science: the bigger picture

After only one month in office, it seems like the consequences of Trump’s presidency will be bigger than one expects – especially for science. Cuts in funding and size of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, Anm.), restrictions on public information about climate change and especially the formulated immigration ban for people of seven countries with a prevailing Muslim population, have attracted attention of the public. If the ban goes through, this could have consequences beyond those on an individual basis: it could paralyze the whole scientific community.

 Networking is the key

In most cases, the publication of scientific papers requires collaboration. In the year 2000, 16% of all publications which named in the Science Citation Index, were a result of co-authorships. Personal meetings allow the linking of interests, followed by cooperation and co-publishing. According to Nature,more than 1.800 of such events are planned worldwide for the rest of this year- over 400 of them in the United States. Further, was the country home to more than a million international students, of whom many would have to forgo international networking in an early stage.

Science as an asset

In a country which was founded during the Enlightenment, science would be expected to be of the foremost priority. The United States even state the power of Congressman to ensure the progress in science in their constitution. With success: Since the last century, 318 Nobel Prize winners called the U.S. their home, with the most winners in every category except literature. Curiously, 40% of them were born in a different country. This indicates the willingness to accommodate scientists. Exceptional names like Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla or Albert Einstein can be found on the list of people, who found shelter in the United States. The tradition was continued by Barack Obama, who helped Syrian scientist Refaai Hamo and granted him asylum.

 A Post-Truth Society?

The Independent reported that Trump called people like Dr. Hamo a “Trojan horse” for seemingly dangerous refugees. He justified the immigration ban by blaming it on the fact that the security of the country was at risk. Even though not all of the students or participants of such networking conferences are from one of the seven countries, the consequences of such a regulation are painting a bigger picture: An international solidarity in the scientific community is necessary for a general progress in science. Trump’s procedure is a signpost for the opposite: It seems like within the society there has never been a bigger doubt towards experts. This doubt is manifested within the term “alternative facts”, which is challenging the legitimacy of every social or natural scientist and now became even more tangible: by menacing their mobility.

 You can show your solidarity internationally on the 22ndof April at the „March for Science“, or online on this homepage: „Union of Concerned Scientists

Katharina Kropshofer

 

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