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“Soft Secession”: A turn to the States for US S&T Policy in the Trump era


Henry Etzkowitz


In rejecting the scientific evidence of climate change and intending a withdrawal from the Paris agreements, the incoming administration is anti-science to an order of magnitude beyond, but on the same track as the George W. Bush Administration.  President Bush placed severe restrictions on federal government funding of stem cell research early in his administration. The Obama Administration eventually ended these restrictions by executive order but they may well be reinstituted by the incoming administration even though it has not yet been mentioned as a policy priority.


In response to the negative Bush stem cell policy the state of California instituted its own funding program for stem cell research (Etzkowitz and Rickne, 2014). The California Institute of Regenerative Medicine arose from a bottom-up coalition of patient advocates, scientists and venture capitalists that placed a measure on the ballot in 04 may provide a model for other issues.  States like California, New York, Illinois and others, can take leadership in science, technology and social policy. During the Progressive era of the early 20th century measures that later became national policy during the Roosevelt Administration had already been instituted in Wisconsin. In the current situation, polices rescinded at the national level may have to find their support at the state and local levels.


 California is the worlds sixth largest economy as has been noted by the venture capitalist who is proposing to fund a secession referendum to remove the state from the Union in response to the election results. A soft secession approach focused on specific issues may have more practical effect. California has long had an outsized effect on US environmental policy, starting with smog standards for automobile emissions that became de-facto national policy even before congressionally mandated. Due to the size of the California market, automakers followed the California standards and developed technology to meet its criteria that was marketed nationally.  California may consider similar policies to replace any gaps opened up at the federal level. 



Etzkowitz, H and  A. Rickne (2014) Citizen-driven innovation: stem cell scientists, patient advocates and financial innovators in the making of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Prometheus  32,4:369-384

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