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Some Science Profs Fear Federal Funding Cuts Under Trump

With less than two months until a new administration moves into the White House, some Harvard professors and researchers say they are worried about how Donald Trump’s presidency could affect federal funding for scientific research.

For some science professors and researchers, Trump’s previous comments about climate change and the appointment of Myron Ebell, who has challenged research about climate change, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency during the transition do not bode well for federal research funding at universities. Ebell is the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

The Science Center
The Science Center at 1 Oxford Street is a focal point of the undergraduate STEM experience at Harvard, hosting many large introductory courses and laboratory-based classes. Professors and researchers at the University have expressed concern that federal funding for scientific research may be curtailed by the Trump administration.

Andrew Berry, a lecturer on Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, said that he reacted with “shock and horror” when hearing of Trump’s election victory. He said that the Trump administration’s attitude towards evolution and climate change is particularly alarming.

“Climate change denial is problematic because of climate change, but also because it’s symptomatic of a general anti-science, ignore-science perspective,” he said. “The notion that you can be the leader of a country which is technologically advanced and yet deny some really basic, fundamental truths, and it’s upon scientific truth that all of technology is built, is disturbing.”

He said he expects Trump’s administration to reduce the amount of federal funding available for scientific research.

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“My guess is that basic science research and research that relates to issues with which the administration is uncomfortable will be biggest losers,” he said.

Katherine Ellen von Stackelberg, a research scientist at the School of Public Health, said she expects her own research on environmental decision-making to be affected.

“One of my sources of funding is… the Science To Achieve Results program, and I’m guessing that funding for those kinds of grant mechanisms will be reduced or eliminated entirely,” she said.

Peter F. Huybers, an environmental science professor, said the current situation is similar to when former President George W. Bush and his administration decided to limit funding for stem cell research. After this change, Harvard created the Stem Cell Center in 2004 to fund research independently of the government.

“Through privately funding research, Harvard was able to make tremendous progress,” he said. “So we stand at this similar crossroads, and even if the government decides to go one way, Harvard as a private university has quite some autonomy and discretion, so it’s important for us to consider how we can still continue research on climate change.”

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