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The ScienceInsider briefing: How Trump’s immigration order affects scientists


Nasser Zawia, a neuroscientist of Yemeni origin and a naturalized U.S. citizen, oversees recruitment of international graduate students at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston.

It’s been that sort of week, hasn’t it? Just 10 days into the new U.S. presidential administration, and the executive actions are pouring in fast and thick: Build that wall. Abandon the Affordable Care Act. And don’t forget to suspend immigration to the United States from “terror-prone regions.” The immigration orders in particular have filled the global scientific community with uncertainty. No less confusing was a series of policy zigzags last week by U.S. science agencies, from so-called gag orders at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to a climate change meeting that was quietly quashed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before being resurrected—a bit less quietly—by outside groups. Feeling whiplashed yet?

That’s why we’ve put together the first of what will be ScienceInsider’s periodic roundups on President Donald Trump and other policy makers shaking up science. And we’d love your input! Please let us know what we else we should be sharing with our readers through the email address at the bottom of this briefing.

The front page

Scientists’ lives upended by Trump’s immigration order

Trump’s signature on executive order 13770 may still be drying, but the lives of scientists are already being upended. The order, which temporarily bars entry into the United States for citizens from Iran and six other predominantly Muslim nations, has sparked chaos at U.S. airports and angst in the scientific community. An open letter signed by more than 7000 academics warns the order “significantly damages American leadership in higher education and research” and calls it “inhumane, ineffective, and un-American.” Ehssan Nazockdast, an Iranian researcher studying fluid dynamics at New York University, says he no longer dares to leave his American wife and children to visit family back in Iran: “I’m living in a big prison called the United States of America.” Science

Scientists to Trump: Torture doesn’t work

Trump suggested he’d like to lift a U.S. government ban on “enhanced” interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that most experts describe as “torture.” Then, he said he’d listen to some of his top military advisers, who oppose the idea. But all that talk reopened a question that most scientists considered closed: Does torture work? It depends, they say, on whether you want someone to talk or whether you want them to tell you the truth. Science

Trump signs ‘2-for-1’ order to reduce regulations

Calling it “a big one,” Trump signed an executive order today that aims to slash government regulations by forcing federal agencies to revoke two rules for every new one proposed through the end of 2017. Starting in 2018, agencies will have to follow special regulatory budgets laid out by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The order, which the White House called the biggest regulatory change since the Reagan administration, follows on the heels of another which aims to expedite environmental reviews. The Hill

Statisticians fear Trump White House will manipulate figures to fit narrative

The U.S. agencies that collect statistical data—like the Bureau of Labor Statistics—are largely insulated from partisan attempts to control what they do, because most data collection is mandated by law. But there are creeping fears that the new administration could withhold funding or even shift some of those responsibilities to the private sector. “What people do not understand,” says former director of the U.S. Census Bureau Kenneth Prewitt, “if you control the denominator, you control everything.” The Guardian

Professor Smith goes to Washington

Scientists in the United States aren’t exactly what you would call a political bunch. Many rely on federal grants or positions to do their work, and others simply see their work as being “above politics.” But now, thanks to signals that the U.S. administration may push back on—or simply ignore—the work of climate scientists and others, some researchers are stepping in to the messy fray and considering a run for office. The Atlantic (And you can find out here what motivated this fly biologist to run for U.S. Senate.)

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Source: Science Mag