"It Is Not at All Typical to Stifle Basic Scientific Information"

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Janine Jackson: Any administration would like to restrict what the public knows about its actions — an unpopular one, all the more so. Combine that with a frank hostility to government regulations and you have the present moment, with Trump White House efforts to make federal agencies limit what they tell the public, and efforts to give them less to talk about in the first place. It may not get the same sort of headlines, but the White House’s war on science could well yield casualties as great as other violent acts more traditionally defined.

Here to tell us about the pressures and the resistance is Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He joins us now by phone from Cambridge. Welcome to CounterSpin, Andrew Rosenberg.

Andrew Rosenberg: Thank you very much, Janine.

The Washington Post says for a new White House to take centralized control of PR is fairly typical, but “the sweeping nature of some of the new controls is unusual.” Well, the hostility to science, to intractable facts, you know, fairly wafts off this new cabinet. But what are some of the particular moves that worry you right now?

Well, what we’ve seen in the first days of the administration, and it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a few days, but we’ve seen the rollout of bans on scientists — as well as other employees — being on social media, speaking to the press, releasing any reports or other products. And while I would agree that it might be typical to hold off on making policy pronouncements for a new administration, it is not at all typical to stifle scientific products — which is basic scientific information, coming out to the public — from public employees.

So that’s one thing we’ve seen, which has been announced and then walked back. We’ve seen a hold on grants and contracts, which was touted as being the usual course of business. I’ve never seen that before, and I’ve been involved in several transitions before. So it is…

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