Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trump administration playing fast and loose with scientific data

And finally, the third in a string of consecutive posts on the Trump administration's War on the Environment, here is another depressing article about another plank of his campaign.
There is incontrovertible evidence that, in the few weeks since coming to power, important and irreplaceable data has been disappearing from government-controlled science databases and websites, particularly data concerned with climate change and the Arctic. Arctic researcher Victoria Hermann reports that she has seen valuable data disappear, almost before her very eyes. She has been receiving a deluge of invalid citation warnings as previously-available resources are mysteriously taken offline.
The alarm was sounded, in the weeks and months before Trump's inauguration, that websites and data on polluters, climate measurements, etc, needed to be backed up and copied in case they became "lost" in the new administration's overhauls. At the time, it sounded like paranoia, but apparently it was a good, even an essential, call, and most data has indeed been backed up, and alternative sources are usually available, albeit with a bit of extra sleuthing.
As Ms. Hermann points out, American environmentalists - and researchers throughout the world - were lucky enough (if that is the right phrase) to have learned a lesson from the last time something like this happened: just three years ago, the government of our very own Stephen Harper closed down no less than 11 Department of Fisheries and Oceans regional libraries, including the only Arctic centre. Reports and studies from over a century of research were lost overnight, a loss from which Arctic research has still not recovered.
Frankly, I find it amazing that such data is not copied and stored redundantly as a matter of course, and maybe now it will be. But imagine the panic this kind of scientific revisionism would strike into the hearts of committed environmentalists and scientists! Let's hope that nothing irreplaceable has been lost in this current round of right-wing over-zealousness.

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