News of the Trump administration’s actions to control the release of scientific information are coming out fast today. After posting a few stories about the issue here, I realize that we at FGI will have to focus on substantive announcements and analyses rather than every hour-to-hour development.
With that in mind, here is an article from Popular Science that, while providing yesterday’s update to the situation at the USDA, also explains why the editors of the magazine value open government information. One Forest Service employee who has been through many administrative transitions describes recent events as “weirdly draconian.” A good read.
- What we actually lose when the USDA and EPA can’t talk to the public: Facts aren’t political. By Kendra Pierre-Louis Popular Science (Jan 24, 2017).
…research has value because of its dissemination to the public. When science isn’t released and discussed, we can’t make decisions based on it.
The government obviously isn’t the only source of science. But industry-funded science comes with its own inherent biases, and academic research can be constrained by the wants of academia—a push to publish. Publicly-funded research can act as a backstop, providing data that’s important for the social welfare but can’t easily be monetized. It’s the third leg that stabilizes the stool, and it doesn’t work without public critique and analysis.