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Scientists discuss leaving the U.S. in this week's Expert Voices.

Cuts in federal funding, censorship or threat of it, devaluation of facts and knowledge, and limits to the influx of talent will certainly affect American leadership in science and technology. But, the scientific ecosystem is robust, thanks to two remarkably simple structural strengths:

  1. Decentralized control. If the political U.S. consists of 50 states with constitutionally enforced local control, the scientific U.S. consists of thousands of universities, institutes, research centers, national labs, and other operations that form an enormously distributed network with largely autonomous governance structures and indecipherably global webs of interactions. Federalism implies that states can mount their own counter-measures when their interests are challenged. Extreme autonomy of scientific institutions almost guarantees the same.
  2. Public support. Deeper than a desire to be cured from disease or to use a faster internet, public support of science is a rooted belief in — and patriotic pride in — American scientific and technological exceptionalism. A challenge to this quintessential American identity will offend most and produce counter-movements, including political mutiny and philanthropic outpouring.

The bottom line: The robust scientific ecosystem in the U.S. will continue to thrive, and scientists with grit should stick around. The American Dream is alive, at least in science.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

51 mins ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.