Science Policy & Funding News

White House Science Adviser Blasts Congress at NSF Meeting

John Holdren, science adviser to President Obama, critiqued geoscience budget cuts passed by the House of Representatives and Congress members equating geosciences with climate change research.


Budget signals from Congress about science in general and the Earth sciences in particular “are troubling to say the least,” White House science adviser John Holdren said at a 22 October meeting of the advisory committee for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Geosciences (NSF GEO).

“There are some very vocal folks in Congress. A few have even asserted that Earth science isn’t a science. [It’s] unbelievable how anybody can even say that,” Holdren said during a visit to show support for NSF—and for GEO in particular.

Directorate-specific cuts under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015, which the House of Representatives approved on 20 May, have targeted GEO. It, among other directorates, would also lose out under the House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016, which the House passed on 3 June.

Some Congressional Antipathy to Earth Sciences

“Apparently one of the reasons for this antipathy to Earth sciences is that some members of Congress equate interest in the geosciences with climate change,” continued Holdren, who also serves as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). “They think by disparaging and to some extent defunding geosciences they can somehow hold back the tide of public concern and concern by many policy makers that climate change is indeed something that requires [a] powerful reaction.”

Issues related to the geosciences “are very high on the president’s priority list,” Holdren added. In a 9 July memorandum on multiagency science and technology priorities for the fiscal year 2017 budget, OSTP and the White House Office of Management and Budget singled out climate change, Earth observations, and ocean and Arctic issues among key focal points.

—Randy Showstack, Staff Writer

Citation: Showstack, R. (2015), White House science adviser blasts Congress at NSF meeting, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO038295. Published on 28 October 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0