These Professionals Are Running for Office More Than Ever
Move over career politicians, a new group of professionals are ready to take over. Now more than ever, scientists are throwing their names into the political ring - from Senate seats to local public office. Since the election of Donald Trump and denial of many basic scientific issues (see climate change), organizations, such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have encouraged scientists to get involved in politics.
In the past, scientists have mostly stayed out of politics; however, politicians are increasingly injecting themselves into scientific issues without much knowledge of the topics they discuss. This is an issue when politicians are making policy decisions that greatly impact not only humans and our bodies, but when addressing global issues such as climate change. The need for people with expertise and without special interests is imperative to ensure the protection of humans (primarily women) and the earth.
According to 314 Action, and organization that helps scientists run for public office, as of January 31, there are more than 60 people with science backgrounds running for federal positions, 200 STEM state legislative candidates, and also 200 science-trained school board candidates.
Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist and breast cancer researcher, founded 314 Action after feeling compelled to run for office in 2014 and 2016. Despite unsuccessful runs, Naughton gained support from many fellow STEM professionals that rallied behind her to cultivate the community that now is 314 Action.
“Scientists have to get beyond this notion that because science is above politics, that scientists cannot be in politics,” says Naughton. “The reverse is happening - politicians are inserting themselves into science and it’s not good.”
Although Naughton acknowledges that the push for more scientists in Washington did not necessarily start with Trump, it was a big catalyst. She notes several instances in the Trump administration that triggered the movement, including the decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the decision to withdraw federal funding for epidemic response and research.
The increasing number of scientists running for public office is encouraging without a doubt - their logical outlook and application of scientific method in decision making could do great things in Washington, where the majority of politicians tend to be biased due to special interests and funding. Organizations like 314 Action provide an optimistic outlook, and will hopefully to continue to grow and train STEM professionals to enter politics.