The Interior Department has introduced a new filter for research grants. Rather than evaluating grants over the rigor of their procedures or the potential importance of their results, the Ryan Zinke-headed department will now look for something they value much more highly—proposals that support Trump’s positions.
The Interior Department has adopted a new screening process for the discretionary grants it makes to outside groups, instructing staff to ensure those awards “promote the priorities” of the Trump administration.
Proposals are to be checked against a list of priorities created by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. That list includes “Utilizing our natural resources.” and “Generating additional revenues.” Zinke’s list also calls for weakening the Endangered Species Act and chopping regulations on companies that want to extract coal, uranium, timber—and every ounce of natural environment—from federal lands.
Zinke’s proposals don’t just destroy the idea of funding projects based on their merit and potential impact, they distort the whole idea of “science.” This isn’t just filtering out projects that don’t fit their priorities, it’s ensuring that any research done will fit those goals.
It’s building confirmation bias into every act of “research.” In fact, Zinke’s approach so invalidates any results from these studies, that it turns every dollar spent into a waste. Rather than go through the pretense of conducting research to fit pre-determined goals, they might as well just skip it altogether.
Scott Pruitt at the EPA has busily replaced scientists with industry shills on their “scientific advisory boards.” Zinke is putting up a pretense of continuing with scientific research, while corrupting the entire idea. It may also be illegal:
David J. Hayes, who served as Interior’s deputy secretary under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said in an email Monday that laws passed by Congress govern these programs.
“Subjugating Congress’ priorities to 10 of the Secretary’s own priorities is arrogant, impractical and, in some cases, likely illegal,” said Hayes, executive director of the New York University School of Law’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
But it seems very likely that Zinke will ignore any legal constraints as readily as he’s bypassed moral and ethical concerns. After all, it’s not as if any resulting action will come out of his pocket. It will simply drain department funds that might have otherwise gone to properly protecting federal lands. And don’t worry, any studies that find “mining actually good for animals” will be trumpeted by Fox regardless of merit.
Throwing a filter that keeps out all science that might indicate that climate change is real, that species need protection, that mine waste pollutes water supplies, that clear cutting forests causes irreplaceable harm … stopping anyone from studying these issues is the goal.
“Our senior leadership team never set up a process like this — that is, a process that identifies broad categories of contracts, at modest financial levels, that must be kicked upstairs to headquarters for political sign-off,” Hayes added. “To the contrary, we recognized that government contract processes are complex, and that political interference would sully the integrity of contracting processes that applicants have a right to expect are governed with fairness, impartiality, and integrity as their guide.”
That was fine for people who didn’t mind a little scientific process in their science. But Trump and Zinke are taking no chance of getting results they don’t like by eliminating research that isn’t designed to give them what they want.
If you have a proposal on how endangered frogs thrive on uranium mine tailings and migratory birds don’t mind finding their breeding grounds destroyed, Ryan Zinke would love to hear from you.