Make America Retract Again: Physics group yanks release that quoted Trump, angered scientists

american-physical-societyBowing to outraged scientists, the American Physical Society (APS) has retracted a press release (archived here) it issued yesterday that urged President-elect Donald Trump to  “Make America Great Again” by strengthening “scientific leadership.”

The statement, attributed to Tawanda Johnson, in the APS’ Washington, D.C. office, congratulated Trump on his victory over Hillary Clinton and said the nation must “reclaim its scientific leadership, which it has lost during the past decade. APS believes that such policies” — which it did not specify — “will help the Trump administration achieve its goal captured by its slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The release goes on to claim that the United States ranks 10th worldwide in “overall innovation,” thanks in part to less-than-adequate funding for scientific research.

Social media went predictably bonkers as the release made the rounds. From Twitter:

  • Adrian Lucy, an astronomer at Columbia University, tweeted: “Your statement is craven and undeserving of your PoC/LGBT membership. Withdraw it. Do not normalize hate.”
  • The writer Ash Van Otterloo called the statement “shameless ring-kissing.”
  • Anna Watts, an astrophysicist in Amsterdam, tweeted “why not just go with ‘Physicists for fascism’ and be done with it?”
  • And the theoretical astrophysicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein wrote: “this is how German sci sold out Jewish sci”

But not all the comments were negative. One poster — who calls Trump “the Devil” on his Twitter profile — wrote:

I don’t really understand the issue people are having with this. They are whistling in a graveyard but it makes sense. $=science

The APS retracted the release earlier today, posting in its place a terse apology:

APS has retracted the recent press release. We apologize and regret the offense it has caused.

We spoke with Johnson, who, reading from a prepared statement, said the society:

did not endorse the [Trump] slogan and we regret that some people have misinterpreted our use of it.

Johnson said the use of the slogan was intended to

 make the point that funding of sustained and robust research funding should be a priority.

We’ll note that the political arm of the society evidently was not in touch with the science folk here. The first press officer we contacted, in the science division, said he had no knowledge of either the release or the retraction.

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3 thoughts on “Make America Retract Again: Physics group yanks release that quoted Trump, angered scientists”

  1. This is what is wrong with science today, it is so in bed with politics that personal beliefs have corrupted the science. Whether it is denigrated a colleague for reaching out to a new president or “fudging” data – results lose their scientific credibility.

  2. These reactions are so childish; I am really quite ashamed of these people. There is no point in spending the next four years covering your ears and humming, pretending that it is all a bad dream. The reality – something which scientists of all people most definitely should not be in such a rush to deny – of the situation is that Donald J. Trump is now the President of the United States of America. Face it and try to make the best of it. But of course we live in such a politicized era that everybody is blind.

  3. President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and President Clinton all congratulated Mr. Trump on his election victory the following day. I see nothing untoward in that. It is the tradition of American civil politics. So also is a pledge to work with the incoming President towards some goals. Such a pledge does not signify concession of principle in advance. Politics in our Nation often generates compromises on immediate policies, as we have seen recently.

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