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Trump and science

December 19, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 49

The side-bar quote of Dan Rather’s opinion (C&EN, Nov. 21, page 16) may prima facie be discarded as insignificant by some. I urge the opposite reaction to that sentence.

Even apart from other sources, reading “Science under eight years of Obama” in the same issue of C&EN ought to make it painfully clear that indulging the incoming Trump Administration with simple “engagement” is likely to be woefully inadequate (C&EN, Nov. 21, page 18). The entire new Administration must be confronted forcefully on science policy. I do not mean angry outbursts of vacuous rhetoric. I do mean that intentionally strong and unrelenting push-back must be undertaken by scientific societies and individuals alike.

The President-elect (without fault) has no scientific education and so far has displayed no interest in what science and science education is or does. Add to that the reality that powerful members of science-focused congressional funding committees and putative presidential advisers are unabashedly facts-denying, science-denying, evidence-denying, and of inquiry-free mindlessness.

Coordinated and focused hard-driving “engagement” is a fragile but only lifeline we have if science, broadly understood, is to survive as a vital component of U.S. prosperity, be it in academia or business and industry. The threat to science research and most other evidence-based inquiry is as real and as frightening a ­prospect as any of the other policy issues this country is going to face in the near future.

Rita Hessley


Nov 14, page 18: Ginkgo Bioworks is working on an unnamed ingredient for Archer Daniels Midland and on strain improvements for Cargill. The article reversed the two partner companies.

Nov. 21, page 32:The cover story on the artificial leaf incorrectly stated that Emily Carter has worked on methanol-generating photoelectrocatalysts for decades. She has worked on those reactions for about six years.

Nov. 28, page 19:The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety’s review of the preservative poly(hexamethylene) biguanide hydrochloride found it to be a cancer concern but not a mutagenic concern.



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