20160731-img_2951-3On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, we thought it would be good to highlight some of the key issues from the last week that could impact the future of science and research in the US over the course of the next administration.

Trump nominees discussing science Over the last week, Donald Trump’s choices for key government positions have been having confirmation hearings in the US Senate. Lawmakers have a chance to question the nominees, who before taking office must be confirmed by the Senate. Science came up during the questioning multiple times, including topics such as funding, climate science, and scientific integrity.

Francis Collins to stay as head of NIH, at least temporarily President Trump has asked Francis Collins to remain director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is not clear whether this will be a formal reappointment or a temporary stopgap until a permanent director is chosen. As Collins has already been confirmed by the Senate during his first appointment, he would not need to go through the process again.

Trump yet to name a science advisor President Trump has yet to name a science advisor, with only rumors of possible candidates to date. Every president since FDR has had a science advisor, but its important to note that Trump is under no legal obligation to appoint a cabinet-level science advisor, such as President Obama’s outgoing science advisor John Holdren. The president will though have to name a director for the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Robert F. Kennedy may lead vaccine commission Robert F. Kennedy, an environmental attorney and outspoken vaccine critic, has announced that he has been tasked by President Trump to chair a “vaccine safety and scientific integrity” commission. Kennedy has been critical of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and has often stated discredited links between vaccines and neurological disorders. Trump’s team have stated that there have been no decisions made on such a commission at this time.

US Department of Energy (DOE) releases new guidelines to protect researchers The US DOE has released new guidelines to protect researchers from political interference. The plan will allows scientists to publicly state their opinions on science and policy, as long as they make clear that they are not speaking for the government. The outgoing energy secretary Ernest Moniz has stated the new policy is not a response to Trump’s election or to Trump’s teams request for the names of DOE employees who worked on climate-change issues, though the timing means it will fall on the new administration to implement the full plan.

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(Click on the titles for links to the original articles).

Contributed by Dr. Peter Harvey, Postdoctoral Researcher in Biological Engineering at MIT.

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