Science Policy Recap: February 9, 2017

While the executive order on immigration continues to affect scientists, a coalition of public interest groups is suing the Trump administration, alleging that the president’s executive order on regulations “exceeds [his] constitutional authority.”

Feb 9, 2017
Joshua A. Krisch

WIKIMEDIA, THE WHITE HOUSEPresident Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration continues to affect scientists. The Atlantic described how one team of scientists at Harvard University is coping with order-associated travel restrictions. Pardis Sabeti, the head of the lab, is a former Iranian refugee. She recently posted a picture of her Iranian colleagues on social media. “I just wanted to show the faces of the types of people they’re trying to ban,” she told The Atlantic. “They’re off-the-charts brilliant, kind, humble, and hard-working. Last night, they were all here working in the lab, with the Super bowl on in the background.”

See “Pardis Sabeti: An American Scientist Born in Iran”

Criticism of the immigration order continues to trickle in. This week, 12 doctors’ groups formally protested the ban, according to MedPage Today, and pharma executives are expected to sign their own statement shortly, STAT News added. Nearly 100 biotechnology executives have also signed a letter opposing the executive order, Forbes reported. The letter, due to be published in Nature Biotechnology, notes that more than half of the biomedical researchers in the U.S. are foreign-born.

Meanwhile, STAT reported, a coalition of public interest groups is suing the Trump administration to block another executive order—one telling federal agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one issued. “The Executive Order exceeds President Trump’s constitutional authority, violates his duty under the Take Care Clause of the Constitution, and directs federal agencies to engage in unlawful actions that will harm countless Americans,” according to the lawsuit.

At least two bills—neither likely to pass—targeting the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were recently introduced in Congress. One proposed its abolishment, while the other is dubbed the “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017.” The sponsors of the latter proposal claim that the EPA has “exceeded its statutory authority by promulgating regulations that were not contemplated by Congress” and maintain that the “no Federal agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under current law.”

While there are several barriers to the president’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border of the United States, geological concerns have come to the fore. “Though most wall designs are fairly simple, builders must adapt to a wide range of terrains,” Smithsonian reported. “The southern US border alone contains desert, wetlands, grasslands, rivers, mountains and forests—all of which create vastly different problems for builders.”

Finally, in the most-contentious Trump cabinet confirmation to date, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary in a 51-to-50 vote on February 7. Some science educators are not pleased. “I’ve never really been political until now and hearing how unqualified she is has really sparked my action,” “John D,” who teaches biology in Indiana, told Gizmodo.