After considerable pushback from the scientific community, the American Physical Society retracted a recent press release this week that congratulated climate skeptic Donald Trump on winning the presidential election.
“The American Physical Society (APS) congratulates Donald Trump on being elected president of the United States of America,” the Wednesday statement read.
APS, the world’s second-largest organization of physicists, urged the president-elect to adopt policies that prioritize science so the United States can reclaim its leadership role. The release noted that the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ranked the U.S. just 10th in innovation worldwide, largely because it lacked adequate funding for scientific research.
“APS urges President-elect Trump to incorporate the necessary policies that will enable our nation to reclaim its scientific leadership, which it has lost during the past decade,” the statement continued. “APS believes that such policies will help the Trump administration achieve its goal captured by its slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’”
The page that once hosted the press release now reads, “APS has retracted the recent press release. We apologize and regret the offense it has caused.”
Reaction to the press release, which Retraction Watch has archived, was swift after it was first posted online.
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, PhD, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Washington, Seattle, is the 63rd African-American woman to earn a PhD in physics and was among the first to rebuke APS for congratulating Trump.
“I am deeply concerned about how a statement like that could have seemed reasonable in the first place,” she told Yahoo News. “APS leadership has refused to put out a statement about Black Lives Matter, but that they can readily put out one quoting what has become to so many people of color an emblem of racist hate. Black physicists and physics students have to worry about their safety on the street right now, and APS is normalizing racism to ask for grant money.”
The statement smacked many readers as tone-deaf because of Trump’s antagonism to science, as evidenced by his statements suggesting that climate change is a hoax, endorsing online polls over statistically modeled ones and linking vaccines to autism.
According to Prescod-Weinstein, the slogan “Make America Great Again” is problematic because it presupposes that the United States was great when African-Americans were “more likely to be hanged from a tree than welcomed in the physics community” and when Nazi war criminals “became central to the American scientific establishment.”
“If APS’s leadership had any imagination — or concern for those of us who are being threatened by emboldened racists/transphobes/etc.,” she continued, “they would have said, ‘We urge President-elect Trump to finally actually make America great through the allocation of resources that will combat discrimination and hate in all their forms.’”
The American Physical Society put "Make America Great Again" in a press release: https://t.co/PTX1VxEodI
— Dr. Chanda ???????? (@IBJIYONGI) November 10, 2016
.@APSphysics Your statement is craven and undeserving of your PoC/LGBT membership. Withdraw it. Do not normalize hate.
— Adrian Lucy (@adrianlucy) November 10, 2016
@APSphysics In endorsing Trump are you also claiming global warming is a Chinese conspiracy?
— (((Richard Kenny))) (@richardjkenny) November 10, 2016
@APSphysics it's hard enough being the only black female in my department. now i have to validate my presence to you too?
— Katrina Miller (@__katrinarenee) November 10, 2016
— Timothy McKay (@TimMcKayUM) November 10, 2016
— Risa Wechsler (@RisaWechsler) November 10, 2016
When contacted by Yahoo News, an APS spokeswoman replied, “APS has no further comment on the release beyond what is stated online.”
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