Scientific Groups Question Moves by Trump Administration to Shake Up Advisory Boards

More than a dozen groups, led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, are speaking out after reports that dozens of scientists would be removed from advisory roles with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Recent moves by the Trump administration have the scientific community on edge—and prominent associations speaking out.

This week, a letter signed by 14 separate scientific associations and societies questioned a review by the administration of scientific advisory boards, along with recent changes to government websites, particularly that of the Environmental Protection Agency. According to a Washington Post report earlier this month, dozens of members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors learned that they would not be allowed to continue in their roles after their term ends in August—a significant shift for the boards, which have traditionally allowed scientists to serve multiple terms if they so choose.

“To be renewed for a second term is usually anticipated, expected, and the only time you might not serve a second term is if your expertise was no longer needed,” noted University of Minnesota Emeritus Professor of Environmental Health Sciences Deborah Swackhamer, the current chair of the board’s executive committee, in comments to the Post.

Associations—led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) but also including the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, and numerous others—said that the decision raised concerns about the precedent of the recent moves, along with the changes to federal websites involving scientific information, particularly regarding climate change—a step that current EPA head Scott Pruitt said he would make in April.

“We urge federal agencies, as they reassess the role and composition of scientific advisory bodies, to ensure that the process of obtaining scientific and technical advice follows the letter and spirit of the Federal Advisory Committee Act and is in accord with democratic principles of governance,” the letter [PDF], sent to President Trump by the organizations, stated.

The groups added that they would welcome “opportunities to work with administration leaders, members of Congress and their staff, and other policy leaders at all levels of government to understand and utilize scientific evidence that informs policy.”

The note comes months after many of the organizations who signed the letter took part in the March for Science, a protest that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets. After the event, AAAS and numerous other groups pledged to take the lessons from the event to legislators.

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!