With the new administration taking aggressive action against climate researchers on several fronts, a group calling itself Ann Arbor Data Rescue has announced that, this Friday and Saturday, they will be coordinating volunteers at the University of Michigans’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library, as part of the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities Data Refuge Project, to preserve vulnerable data sets, ensuring their availability to researchers in the future.
“With every administration change,” organizers of the local event say, “there is a loss digital content due to the lack of a comprehensive strategy for preserving digital government information. The new Presidential administration, however, presents a level of urgency to this problem, with a feeling of at best ambiguity and at worst threat to the study of specific research areas. This is especially true of materials related to climate change and the environment, though other areas may also be at risk. The national Data Refuge project is an attempt to preserve these vulnerable data sets and address the larger problem of born-digital government information.”
For those in who would like to attend – and you don’t have to be an archivist or scientist to do so – work will commence at 10:00 AM on both days. [Details can be found on Facebook.]
And, speaking of the crackdown on environmental scientists, the following, in case you didn’t see it, was making the rounds today on social media. I have no way of knowing if it was, in fact, authored by an EPA staffer, but, given what’s said, it certainly sounds plausible.
So I work at the EPA and yeah it’s as bad as you are hearing:
The entire agency is under lockdown, the website, facebook, twitter, you name it is static and can’t be updated. All reports, findings, permits and studies are frozen and not to be released. No presentations or meetings with outside groups are to be scheduled.
Any Press contacting us are to be directed to the Press Office which is also silenced and will give no response.
All grants and contracts are frozen from the contractors working on Superfund sites to grad school students working on their thesis.
We are still doing our work, writing reports, doing cancer modeling for pesticides hoping that this is temporary and we will be able to serve the public soon. But many of us are worried about an ideologically-fueled purging and if you use any federal data I advise you gather what you can now.
We have been told the website is being reworked to reflect the new administration’s policy.
Feel free to copy and paste, you all pay for the government and you should know what’s going on. I am posting this as a fellow citizen and not in any sort of official capacity.
Here, by way of background on what will be happening this weekend in Ann Arbor, is an excerpt from a December Motherboard feature about efforts around the world to safeguard environmental data in the age of Trump.
When Donald Trump takes over the federal government on January 21, his administration will also gain complete control over much of the .gov suite of websites, which currently hosts a treasure trove of publicly available, taxpayer-funded scientific research. The academic world is bracing itself: Will that data remain available after his transition?
Scientists and university professors all around the country and in Canada believe we’re about to see widespread whitewashing and redaction of already published, publicly available taxpayer-funded scientific research, databases, and interactive tools, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Level Rise viewer, NASA’s suite of climate change apps, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s maps of the country’s worst polluters. They also expect to see censorship, misrepresentation, and minimization of new government-funded research, specifically regarding climate change.
These fears are not based merely on a sense of dreading-the-worst from a man who has called climate change a Chinese hoax, nominated a climate change denier with close ties to the fossil fuel industry as head of the EPA, the CEO of ExxonMobil as Secretary of State, and will reportedly name the fossil fuel-friendly Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy. During the George W. Bush administration, which similarly denied that climate change is being caused by humans, there was widespread censorship and destruction of public-facing climate change information and research.
“Policies and practices have increasingly restricted the flow of scientific information emerging from publicly-funded climate change research,” a 138-page report published in March 2007 by the Government Accountability Project begins. “This has affected the media’s ability to report on the science, public officials’ capacity to respond with appropriate policies, and the public’s grasp of an environmental issue with profound consequences for our future.”
The investigation found that the Bush administration systematically changed scientists’ press releases, misrepresented scientific findings to Congress, and neglected or deleted information on government websites…
With the Trump presidency looming, many scientists who studied Bush’s policies are starting a mad dash to preserve climate science that has been made available under President Obama based on fears that it might no longer be publicly accessible. Several professors I spoke to say that officials who work for the government’s science departments are privately imploring researchers outside the government to download what they can now, or risk losing access to it later. NOAA and the EPA did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for NASA told me the agency is “apolitical” and that it is “committed to doing whatever we can to assist in making the Executive Branch transition a smooth transition.”…
Scientists who don’t have to worry about upsetting their future bosses, however, tell a very different story.
“My expectation and fear is we are going to see round two of Bush,” Robert Paterson, co-director of the Urban Information Lab at the University of Texas’s School of Architecture, told me. Paterson posted about his concerns on a Facebook group for professors called Planners 2040 earlier this month. “The appointments are hostile to climate change, so I think it’s prudent for folks to download the science that’s easily available now, because you may have to file a [Freedom of Information request] later to get it.”…
One of the main concerns is that a Trump presidency doesn’t even have to purposefully take down these tools—many of them will simply break or become useless without being regularly updated.
“While we may not see the straightforward deleting of data, we expect to see access to data starved out,” Michelle Murphy and Patrick Keilty, who are spearheading a “Guerrilla Archiving” event at the University of Toronto, told me in an email. “It takes effort and money to keep databases and portals updated and maintained, and to make them publicly available. Moreover, data can move from being publicly shared through portals that make it immediately accessible to less accessible, but still technically public forms of availability.”…
And, in somewhat related news, it’s not just the National Park Service [@AltNatParkSer] and NASA [@roguenasa] that have gone rogue on Twitter in response to the anti-science Trump administration. As of today, we also have the EPA represented [@ActualEPAFacts]. Here’s a taste.