Science under Trump administration: “Florida and America will lead the way into the stars”

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President-elect Donald Trump did not express many views regarding science and innovation during his campaign, yet there are a few hints on his positions on certain aspects.

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Before the election, the non-profit organisation Science Debate asked the main candidates to discuss their positions on different scientific points. Trump’s vision for innovation in the country that is currently the world’s biggest spender on research and development reflects this businessman’s perspective. “Innovation has always been one of the great by-products of free market systems. Entrepreneurs have always found entries into markets by giving consumers more options for the products they desire,” he explained.

Some scientists are fearful about funding for basic research – the fundamental science aimed at bettering our understanding of the world around us. Moreover, there are concerns that Trump’s professed stance on immigration will slow down American universities’ ability to attract scientific talent from around the world.

“There’s a fear that the scientific infrastructure in the US is going to be on its knees,” Robin Bell, the incoming president of the American Geophysical Union, told the Washington Post. “Everything from funding to being able to attract the global leaders we need to do basic science research,” he added.

Trump said that the federal government should “encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration and investment in research and development across the broad landscape of academia”. He does believe that scientific advances “do require long-term investment”, while at the same time raising the possibility of cuts. “There are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget”, Trump stated. “We should also bring together stakeholders and examine what the priorities ought to be for the nation.”

The uncertainty of this potential shift in priorities is what some scientists are afraid of.

Environment

Some researchers consider that Trump’s statements about climate change showcase disregard for the scientific method that does not go well for other research areas under his administration.
The President-elect has previously called global warming a “hoax” and vowed to “cancel” the Paris agreement, which came into force earlier this month.

Medicine and health

Last year, Trump did briefly comment on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which oversees around $30bn of medical research per year. Right-wing talk show host Michael Savage asked the then-presidential candidate whether he would consider appointing him to head the NIH. Trump answered: “I think that’s great,” adding “You know you’d get common sense if that were the case, that I can tell you, because I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.” It is unclear whether this brief exchange gives any serious insight into Trump’s position on biomedical research.

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Responding to a Science Debate question about federal research for public health, Trump replied: “In a time of limited resources, one must ensure that the nation is getting the greatest bang for the buck. We cannot simply throw money at these institutions and assume that the nation will be well served.”

Trump’s space policy

The space policy has been mentioned during the presidential campaign by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The soon-to-be President ignored the subject an year ago, but than started making new promises about space exploration.

About 12 months ago, when a 10-year-old asked about his opinion on NASA, Trump said there were bigger problems in the US and America had no money to invest in such things. More recently, he reconsidered his position and said a few things about the space being great and how America will conquer it. “Under Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars”, the President-elect stated.

He policy might send NASA astronauts back to the Moon and on the surface of Mars. “The specifics of missions will be determined within the overall goal of human exploration of the solar system, but clearly, the long–term, overall goal of Trump space policy anticipates human exploration far beyond low-Earth orbit and even beyond Mars,” told former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Robert Walker and a senior advisor to the Trump campaign for forbes.com.

He adds the space policy will be a real part of the Trump administration. “President-elect Trump made space policy a major part of his final campaign message and Vice President-elect Pence has been very enthusiastic about the role he would assume as head of the new National Space Council. The council would help keep space issues front and center during the Trump Administration” said Walker, a former Chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology committee.

He also added that one of the first space policy goals for Trump is beginning technological implementation of human exploration of our solar system by the end of this century.

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