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


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 – 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.


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.

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  1. Mondoman

    Might I suggest taking a bit more time in self-reflection before beginning your advocacy campaign? Your claim that “… the scientific societies are viewed as credible explicitly because of our non-partisan and apolitical stance…” conflicts with the explicit advocacy and personal attacks expressed and/or condoned by society officials, e.g. use of epithets like “denier” or Marcia McNutt’s controversial 2015 “The beyond-two-degree inferno” advocacy piece in Science magazine, written while she was its Editor-in-Chief.

  2. Louise Pellerin

    Well said – thanks, Chris
    AGU has a lot of work ahead of them in the next four years and we need to be bold, strong and loud!

  3. Mark Eakin

    “as a community, we cannot afford to be naive” But as an organization we can continue to take money from Exxon-Mobil while they both fight against action to address climate change and fight to discredit AGU members? Your letter seems rather disingenuous in light of the Board’s continued acceptance of money from Exxon-Mobil.

  4. Charles Greene

    Mark Eakin is entirely correct. Until AGU repudiates the sponsorship funding from Exxon-Mobil, its rhetoric about taking a strong stand on climate change science rings hollow. Exxon-Mobil has a long, well documented history of supporting climate change denial, and although it has hidden its ongoing support of such denial underground, it continues to abuse our country’s political and judicial systems to ensure its short-term profitability. What message is AGU sending to the world when it accepts sponsorship funding from the most notorious corporate sponsor of climate change denial in history?

  5. Elisabeth Holland

    I agree that scientific integrity is paramount. By continuing to accept Exxon-Mobil funds, as a society, we are sending a strong signal that we will not hold Exxon-Mobil accountable for its acts to discredit the very science we are committed to. When AGU shows leadership by not accepting Exxon-Mobil funds and making a clear statement why, then we can all work together to defend scientific integrity.

  6. Kerry Emanuel

    The combination of AGU’s strong statements in defense of climate science with its refusal to adhere to its own policy against accepting funds from serial disinformers like Exxon sends a strong message to young scientists: Stand on principle except when money is at stake. It is too bad that AGU does not see fit to make an exception to this all-too-human tendency to place expedience before ethics.

    • Kayla Iacovino

      I also came here to say this. I will believe AGU’s defense of climate science when they stop taking money from companies that put their bottom line above our ecosystem, including not only oil companies but also climate deniers who are not vetted and are allowed space in both the exhibit hall and the scientific program.

      It is particularly disheartening to see biased, unscientific posters preaching anti-science rhetoric in a scientific program run by people whose sole responsibility it is to read submitted abstracts before accepting them and granting them a space in the poster hall. AGU needs to be accountable for political statements disguised as scientific abstracts that make it through the abstract review process.

  7. Neesha R Schnepf

    “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
    As scientists and AGU respond to this election, we need to keep that mantra in mind. We can influence politicians, but we cannot directly control their minds and are therefore limited in how much we can influence policy. However, we directly can control what we do and how we influence the world. Divesting from fossil fuels and rejecting the support of fossil fuel companies is a good starting point for every scientist and scientific union concerned with the well-being of humanity and Earth.

  8. Gail Atkinson

    An issue not yet touched on here is the potential impact of restrictive policies on issuing visitor visas to the U.S. to allow international participants at the AGU annual meeting and other major scientific conferences. It is already difficult at best for international residents (in Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America, etc.) whose country of birth is in the Middle East to obtain a visa to attend such meetings. With proposed new policies to further restrict access for all Muslims and/or those born in Muslim countries, there will be a significant fraction of the international community that is no longer welcome to attend the AGU. This poses an ethical dilemma for many of us that are not resident in the U.S. – if my colleagues are no longer welcome, do I still want to go? And leave them behind? This does not sit right.


    I am agree with Chris, thank you. The AGU can invite President Trump or their top advisers to the Meeting to answer directly to the members’ questions about their policies for climate, Earth and humanity. If we know their policies about using the scientific scientists points of view we can better correct our policy. In addition, getting visa for international participants specially Muslims scientists at the AGU meetings and other scientific conferences becomes more difficult (as Gail Atkinson mentioned) and this is not interesting for world of science.

  10. Mark Eakin

    Will the discussions look at how the pot is calling the kettle black here? As long as AGU continues to take money from Exxon-Mobil, it is complicit in the very climate change problem it eschews. AGU has declared that these donations don’t influence the organization. However, you can almost read the giddy glee in the recent EOS article “Largest Ever U.S. Shale Oil Deposit Identified in Texas” No mention in the article that hhis deposit has a potential to release over 2 GT of CO2 into the atmosphere, or 1% of the total CO2 we can release before we blow past the 1.5°C temperature rise goal set by the Paris agreement and 5% of total annual CO2 release.

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