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When Politics Trump Science: The Erosion of Science-Based Regulation

September 2020

Citation: ELR 10708

Author: Romany Webb, Lauren Kurtz, and Susan Rosenthal

"Science is science and facts are facts. My administration will ensure that there will be total [scientific] transparency and accountability without political bias.” That was the promise made in September 2016 by then-candidate Donald Trump when asked how he would protect federal scientists from political interference in their work. Since taking office, however, President Trump has led a concerted effort to undermine federal scientific research, particularly in areas where research findings contradict his own views or undermine the basis of his deregulatory agenda. That effort is documented in the Silencing Science Tracker, an online database that records anti-science actions taken by the federal government. Drawing on three-and-a-half years of tracker data, this Comment analyzes the Trump Administration’s evolving war on science and shows how it is changing the way federal agencies perform, use, and communicate scientific research.

Romany Webb is an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia Law School and Senior Fellow at Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Lauren Kurtz is the Executive Director of the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund. Susan Rosenthal is a Project Attorney at the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.

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