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Worried Scientists Urge Trump to Respect Their Work

More than 2,300 Americans scientists, including 22 Nobel Prize winners, issued an open letter to the president-elect and to Congress Wednesday.
Image: Europe's Melting Glaciers: Hornkees And Waxeggkees
\Droplets of water drip from melting ice on the periphery of the Hornkees glacier on August 26, 2016 near Ginzling, Austria.Sean Gallup / Getty Images

More than 2,300 American scientists, including 22 Nobel Prize winners, issued an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump and Congress Wednesday, urging them to respect science.

They are especially worried about government interference in their work and about policies that could reject scientific fact — notably climate science.

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard stands on launch Pad-0A during sunrise at NASA's Wallops Flight FacilityBill Ingalls/NASA / NASA via Getty Images

"From disease outbreaks to climate change to national security to technology innovation, people benefit when our nation’s policies are informed by science unfettered by inappropriate political or corporate influence," the researchers, who come from dozens of fields in all 50 states, wrote.

Related: Science Leader Calls on Trump to Respect Facts

"Congress and the Trump administration should ensure our nation’s bedrock public health and environmental laws — such as the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act — retain a strong scientific foundation, and that agencies are able to freely collect and draw upon scientific data to effectively carry out statutory responsibilities established by these laws. They should also safeguard the independence of those outside the government who provide scientific advice."

They’ve got plenty to worry about. Trump has raised questions about the legitimacy of climate change, made questionable comments about disproven links between vaccines and autism, said fracking causes "zero" risks, and has advocated for keeping everyone from Ebola-affected countries out of the U.S.

Related: Here Are Trump's Cabinet Picks so Far

"Global warming is based on faulty science and manipulated data," Trump tweeted Nov. 2. Many Republicans in Congress also deny that climate change is real or caused by people.

He's suggested dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency and promised to cancel the Paris climate agreement.

Senior Trump campaign adviser Bob Walker told the Guardian newspaper he thought the space agency NASA, which leads climate research that has shown melting ice caps and changes in atmospheric gases, should stop "politically correct environmental monitoring" and focus on space exploration instead.

"Respect for science in policymaking should be a prerequisite for any cabinet position," said physicist Lewis Branscomb of the University of California, San Diego.

Congress has blocked federal health agencies from researching, or even paying for research, on gun violence since the 1990s. Members of Congress have sponsored hearings aimed at raising doubts about the safety of vaccines and passed legislation to protect the sale of unproven nutritional supplements.

Advocacy groups such as Public Citizen worry that Trump would pressure the Food and Drug Administration to approve drugs and devices without adequate safety reviews. The president-elect has pledged to “reform the Food and Drug Administration, to put greater focus on the need of patients for new and innovative medical products.”

"The new administration must ensure that federal agencies can continue to use science to serve the public interest."

"Experts at federal agencies prevent the spread of diseases, ensure the safety of our food and water, protect consumers from harmful medical devices, and so much more. The new administration must ensure that federal agencies can continue to use science to serve the public interest," said Nobel Laureate Carol Greider, director of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, who signed the letters.

Other signatories include Dr. Georges Benjamin of the American Public Health Association, cosmologist Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University and physicist Neal Lane of Rice University, a former science adviser to President Bill Clinton.

The letter sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, isn’t the first from the group. It also sponsored a letter to the administration of President George W. Bush, which irked scientists with its stance restricting research on embryonic stem cells and climate science.

Reversing the Bush administration's strict limits of stem cell science was one of President Barack Obama's first acts in office.