Trump slashes US science funding

The US government has cut funding to science as part of its cunning plan to return to a nice biblical view of things.

Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump has decided that there is far too much science which assumes really weird things, like the earth is older than six thousand years, and that everything is going to be wiped out by a giant flood. All of this is impossible according to the Bible, so he does not see why the US is funding it.

Instead Trump’s first budget plan wants to invest piles of cash in the military. The plan, released on 16 March, calls for double-digit cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health. It also lays the foundation for a broad shift in the United States’ research priorities, including a retreat from environmental and climate programmes.

Boffins are worried that the Trump administration’s stance will jeopardise US leadership in fields ranging from climate science to cancer biology. The US has only started to recover from President George Bush’s veto on the use of stem cells which were made for similar reasons. But these cuts are more sweeping.

Jason Rao, director of international affairs at the American Society for Microbiology in Washington DC. The greatest threats to the United States, he says, are those presented by infectious diseases, climate change, and energy production — which cannot be addressed effectively without scientific research.

The Trump budget will cut funding for the NIH by 18 percent , to $25.9 billion, making it one of the hardest-hit research agencies. The document also calls for a reorganisation of the NIH’s 27 institutes — including the elimination of the smallest, the Fogarty International Centre — but offers no further detail beyond a pledge to “rebalance Federal contributions to research funding”.

It appears that the move is based on a paranoia in the Bush camp that the NIH is overstepping its powers.

On the plus side Trump would also create a fund within the Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH’s parent, to respond to public health emergencies such as the spread of the Zika virus.

Scientists and public health experts have called for such a fund for years, but advocates say that starting one while cutting research and prevention programmes is pointless. It is cheaper to prevent a crisis than mop one up afterwards.

But the Environmental Protection Agency is going to lose a third of its $8.2-billion budget and 3,200 its 15,000 staff. The EPA’s Office of Research and Development would see its funding reduced by half, from $483 million to $250 million.

All this is because Trump does not believe in climate and environmental regulations. One biologist, who studies chemicals that affect the endocrine system in fish and potentially people, is part of a programme that Trump wants to eliminate. She said that the reason is that if there’s no science to point out potential problems, there won’t be any more regulations.

The White House wants to cut 5.6 percent, or $1.7 billion, from the Department of Energy (DOE). The plan would eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which funds ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research. And it would slash $900 million, or about 20 percent, from the DOE’s Office of Science, which supports research on topics such as high-energy physics, energy, climate change and biology.

The Trump plan does not include an overall funding target for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But it would eliminate the agency’s long-running, $73-million Sea Grant programme, which supports 33 US colleges and universities that conduct research, education and training about ocean and coastal topics.

Still this is good news for the rest of the world as it will mean that while the US is dumbing down, it can take control of scientific developments without much in the way of competition. The UK did rather well when George Bush dropped the ball on stem cell research so it is likely that European research will do well.

What should be more worrying for Trump is that his moves will give more power to the Chinese and Russian governments who will also have time to catch up.