The political climate of 2017 has already raised several causes for concern among U.S. scientists: from politicians who reject current scientific theory, to dramatic cuts proposed to federal or state budgets for research (and jobs), to enacting hiring freezes and stopping grant payments, to policy changes which would allow for governmental oversight on which and how results were disseminated (a gag order). Certainly, other administrations have suggested or enacted scientific budget cuts, or called for hiring freezes and gag orders, but never before has a president and White House administration so clearly come out against scientific literacy, education, research, and policy.
This change of political tone has encouraged many scientists to voice their concerns, but we scientists also need the support of the general public. After all, science is largely designed to improve the lives and economies of everyone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs accounted for 8.6 million US jobs in 2015 in the U.S., but an estimated 26 million jobs (20% of jobs in 2011) require knowledge of a STEM field, a sector that consistently has low rates of unemployment, and expands the US economy. Thus, even without thinking about the politics of science, we can agree that scientific research is a vital part of the U.S. economy. Additionally, 93% of STEM occupations have wages above the national average. If you are a scientist, know a scientist, or generally want to show your support, here are some ways you can get involved.
March for Science
Signing petitions, wearing slogans, and being vocal to legislatures and the public about your support is wonderful, but a show of solidarity can bring people together to effect change.
On Saturday April 22, 2017, people will March for Science in cities across the United States to peacefully show their support for scientific literacy, education, policy, and freedom of speech. Please consider joining them.
You can find a march near you, here. A number of scientific organizations have endorsed the March for Science, including (in no particular order) the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Georgia Academy of Science, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and others. And if you need inspiration for a sign or an outfit, there are lots of places that are ready to help you out.
As I discussed in a previous post about research grant money, financial support of science is always welcome. There are lots of ways to contribute, whether it’s donating to organizations to fund research for specific medical conditions, participating in a crowd-funding campaign to raise money or get equipment donated, becoming a member or donating to scientific advancement organizations, or even just taking a grad student out to lunch.
Rock the Vote
Support for scientific funding, education, and policy may not be at the top of your list of reasons for supporting political candidates, but it should be on there somewhere. After the first few months of 2017, a number of scientists have decided to hang up their lab coat and run for public office, so you’ll have plenty of options in the coming elections.
I would like to acknowledge Drs. Irene Grimberg and Fabian Menalled for their edits to this post, as well as the ongoing efforts of my editor, Mike Haselton, MA, towards improving my writing.