17 November 2016

What the U.S. Election Results Mean for AGU, Our Science, and Our Members

Posted by Chris McEntee

UPDATE, 22 November: I’m happy to tell you that AGU has launched the first element in our post-election efforts to galvanize our community and our friends and supporters to be advocates for science, scientists, and scientific integrity.

Yesterday, we launched a petition to President-elect Donald Trump asking him to make appointing a Science Advisor a top priority. The petition is posted on Change.org – President-elect Trump: Bring Science to the White House – and is being promoted via AGU’s social media and other communications channels. I strongly encourage you to consider signing the petition and sharing it with your network.

As we have further updates on AGU’s post-election efforts, including a special session we are organizing for the Fall Meeting, I will be sure to share them with you.

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When I sat down to write this post, I must confess that I struggled with where to start. I’ve heard from many members (not to mention others in our community) over these last few days, all of whom are wondering and worrying over what the future looks like for science overall – and the Earth and space sciences in particular – in the face of a new administration and a new Congress. I want to be able to say that everything is going to be OK and they shouldn’t worry. The reality is, at this point in time, there are too many questions and not enough answers for me to be able to say with 100% certainty what the future holds.

That being said, as a community, we cannot afford to be naive.

Clearly, the rhetoric used throughout this campaign has been deeply concerning, such as climate change being called a hoax and many others. At the same time, the actual details of policies and other actions the new administration and the Congress will take are not yet known. While we have a well-founded fear about the defunding and deprioritizing of key areas of science, such as climate change and Earth observations, there may be opportunities to increase support for other areas, such as space exploration. In addition, we know areas stated as priorities – rebuilding infrastructure, national security and national defense, job creation, and clean air and water – have relied on Earth and space science in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Read our latest post on The Bridge for more details.

Any time there is a significant change in the political landscape here in the U.S., that change impacts sectors, industries, and communities across our economy and society, as well as other countries. With the election of President-elect Donald Trump and the new members of Congress comes new uncertainties in terms of the strength of federal support for scientific investment, trust in scientific integrity, and the level of support for educating and developing the next generation of scientists.

That’s why the leaders of several of the science societies met recently to discuss how we can work together in the coming weeks, months and years to be advocates for our science, scientists, and scientific integrity. In addition, AGU leaders and staff are working on both a short-term and a long-term strategy targeted specifically for the Earth and space sciences, which appear to be especially vulnerable.

One thing I am certain of is that the voice of sound science will be vitally important as we move forward…and because the scientific societies are viewed as credible explicitly because of our non-partisan and apolitical stance, we are well-positioned to be that voice.

In the next few days, we will be initiating a strategy that will have two complementary parts – one that calls on you to be even more engaged, directly and with colleagues in other sectors – and one that will foster stronger relationships between AGU and Congress/the Administration, as well as forge new ones with policy makers,  and partners in the private sector. There is no better time than now for us to join forces with those that share common interests with us and who depend on our sciences, to give voice to the value of science. We must do our best to assure that sound science informs policy outcomes. We have a good story to tell – one that is recognized by many in the private and public sector – and it is an obligation for us all to speak out for science.

AGU can – and will – provide the leadership, guidance and support needed to tell that story, but we can’t be successful though without you. We will be calling on you to:

  • Let us know about direct or indirect relationships you have with decision-makers, as well as potential business allies who share our belief in the power of science
  • Lend your support to communications we will send to Congress and the Administration
  • Speak directly to policymakers and those who influence them
  • Reach out to your own networks and engage them in this effort
  • Share stories of how your research is benefiting a specific state or district

You can expect more frequent communications about our progress, and requests for you to engage with us in the coming weeks and months. We will also be looking for opportunities to respond to your questions and concerns. The first of these is a special session about the election, its impact on science, and AGU’s path forward, that will be held at this year’s Fall Meeting. I look forward to sharing the details of that session with you in the coming days.

No matter what happens, science has an important role to play. It advances human understanding. It makes people’s lives better. It creates and stimulates economies. It protects us all from harm. Sound public policy is rooted in evidence-based science.

AGU is going to be a proactive voice for the Earth and space science, and we will do everything in our power to tackle the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that will arise along this new path that we’re on. We will fight for and defend science, and the dedicated scientists who make it possible. That is my promise to you.