Under Wilbur Ross, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will continue to provide accurate and factual data to the public, including peer-reviewed research, without political filters, Ross wrote last night in a letter to Senator Bill Nelson (D–FL), the ranking member of the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
"I see no valid reason to keep peer reviewed research from the public," Ross wrote. "To be clear, by peer review I mean scientific review and not a political filter."
The letter comes as the new administration's influence has started to ripple through federal scientific agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At EPA, Trump administration officials have issued a freeze on all grants and contracts, ProPublica reports, although the full details are unclear. At USDA, researchers have been ordered not to “release any public-facing documents,” Buzzfeed reports, although they are apparently allowed to submit manuscripts to journals and speak at technical conferences. (After this story went to press, USDA announced it was withdrawing the order and will rewrite it.)
While vowing to "leave science to the scientists," Ross’s letter did not make broader commitments to leave unchanged agency policies on how federal scientists respond to media queries. The letter also confirmed that the Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA, would continue "to research, monitor and report weather and climate information."
"It's my hope the White House will not hamstring Mr. Ross in carrying out this pledge," Nelson said at the beginning of a committee hearing today to consider Ross's nomination. The committee then voted unanimously to move Ross's nomination to the full Senate. He is expected to win confirmation.
(See picture of the letter, here.)