Trump vs. Science
The last few months have been a pivotal time in American politics. After months of intensive campaigning, Donald Trump will be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States on January 20th, 2017. As it is well known, Donald Trump is infamous for his conservative views on the American individual, and has varying opinions on many topics including immigration, gun control laws, and much more.1 However, one of the major controversies surrounding his presidency involves his views on the field of science and healthcare. Many like to refer to Donald Trump as the first ‘anti-science’ President that the United States will see.2 So, what will research, especially rare disease research, within the United States look like under a Donald Trump presidency?
When it comes to general science and healthcare, Donald Trump sometimes lacks scientific backing for his views. He plans to cut NASA funding by a minimum of 300 million dollars, with the majority of that cut coming from Earth Science research.3 Although 300 million dollars is only a fraction of NASA’s 18.5 billion dollar budget, retracting monetary funds from scientific research is not ideal.4 Trump has also placed a climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite proven scientific evidence of the reality of climate change, he persists in his views that the research being conducted on Earth science is completely politicized.3,5 Donald Trump is also adamant on repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and has appointed an Affordable Act Care opposer as the head of the US Department of Health and Human services.1,3 Obamacare benefits millions of American who cannot afford to pay for healthcare out of pocket and presents a positive future within universal healthcare. This particularly affects those within the rare disease community as many of these individuals cannot afford to pay for treatment. Rare diseases affect a miniscule part of the population, and as such, result in extremely costly treatments to recuperate the costs of development. However, Obamacare will allow individuals access to reduced costs prescription drugs.1,3,5 Although opposed to Obamacare, Donald Trump is in favour of Health Savings Accounts which allows individuals to save money specifically for healthcare expenses, and this account is currently untaxed.1
It is clear from Donald Trump’s views on topics such as universal healthcare and climate change that his presidency will affect every facet of science. One of the first steps Donald Trump plans to take is cutting federal funding for biomedical research, a decision reached by himself and his pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price.5 Specifically, Tom Price has voted against a bill that would provide mandatory funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and improve the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, as well as cancer research initiatives previously proposed by President Barack Obama.5 In early 2016, Obama announced the project called ‘Cancer Moonshot,’ an initiative to greatly accelerate cancer research. This initiative was to receive over one billion dollars in funding by 2017 in order to supply materials for research regarding immunotherapies, antitumour medications and much more. Unfortunately, Tom Price, and by extension, Donald Trump plan to cut this funding immediately.5 In the world of rare disease research, this can prove to be an enormous setback as rare cancer research forms a large part of rare disease care. Decreases in funding will affect material usage, wages for scientists and reduce the number individuals who will actually be able to work on rare disease research specifically. The majority of researchers rely on government grants, such as from the NIH and the National Science Foundation, to provide the necessary monetary backing needed to create breakthroughs in their field of knowledge. Trump has publicly exclaimed “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.” With Trump having the power to control funding allocation, it is essential that he makes clear-cut arguments as to his reasons behind the cuts, as his current arguments are not well supported. In a nutshell, rare disease research may diminish greatly.3,5
As stated previously, Donald Trump has full control of who he appoints in charge of his government agencies. With an anti-Obamacare individual in charge of Health and Human Services and a climate change denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, the future seems grave for those within the field of science.3 Along with these positions, Donald Trump has the power to choose a director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1,6 The CDC works closely with the NIH and other national health institutions to work towards providing better care for those with rare diseases.6 For example, when in power, Donald Trump plans to direct the head of the CDC to stop patients infected with Ebola from entering the United States, effectively preventing them from receiving the care they need to heal.7 Donald Trump is also an advocate for the “Vaccines Cause Autism” movement, despite the fact that the movement has been proven wrong time and time again in scientific literature. With this sort of thinking, scientific research and healthcare may take a turn for the worse.6
American scientific communities are worried. With regards to science, Donald Trump has no academic background on his views. Many of his opinions are formed without sufficient scientific backing, and he is often convinced of such concepts through his colleagues and future heads of government agencies. Currently, the United States is a superpower within the scientific research community, with a majority of new findings coming out of the country. However, with a decline in science funding leading to grant cuts, reduced investment into rare disease research, and less invested into rare disease care, the future of such fields look slim.5 By reducing this funding, care for rare diseases will diminish as progress will slow down. By repealing Obamacare, individuals who must rely on borrowed money for help will face an incredibly tough time paying their fees, especially with those in the rare disease community paying much more than the general public due to their extensive and often specialized care.3 Rare disease research is a major facet of scientific research and should continue to be so. Without this type of work, many individuals around the world would not be able to receive help. Donald Trump’s victory may slow this progression. The next four years will truly be a battle between Trump and science.
The views of this article solely represent the opinions of the named author.
1. DONALD J. TRUMP POLICIES. Donaldjtrump.com. 2016. Available at: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/.
2. Krauss L. Trump’s Anti-Science Campaign - The New Yorker. The New Yorker. 2016. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trumps-anti-science-campaign.
3. Kaplan S. What will President Trump mean for science?. Washington Post. 2016. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2016/11/09/what-will-president-trump-mean-for-science/?utm_term=.739e78013ded.
4. NASA Budget Unveiled for Fiscal Year 2016. NASA. 2016. Available at: https://www.nasa.gov/content/reach-for-new-heights-nasa-budget-unveiled-for-fiscal-year-2016/.
5. Reardon S. Trump's pick for US health secretary has pushed to cut science spending. Nature. 2016. doi:10.1038/nature.2016.21066.
6. Trump’s pick to run HHS has researchers speculating on how science will fare. Science | AAAS. 2016. Available at: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/trump-s-pick-run-hhs-has-researchers-speculating-how-science-will-fare.
7. Trump wanted to keep Americans critically ill with Ebola out of the U.S. Washington Post. 2016. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/08/24/trump-wanted-to-deny-u-s-care-to-americans-critically-ill-with-ebola/?utm_term=.f9495a4dc8e2.
Cite This Article:
Misra A., Zheng K., Chan G., Ho J. Trump vs. Science. Illustrated by Z. Gomes. Rare Disease Review. January 2017. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.32117.99040.