The midterm elections are almost here. Most conversations are about Congress and governorships, but some of the most critical and underappreciated races affect people’s daily lives. Positions such as township supervisor, school board member, or county commissioner are among more than 500,000 state and city offices in the United States that oversee complex policy, including on science-related issues, including the climate change, health care and reproductive choice. State-level positions spend $3.2 trillion in public funds every year, and many are filled by people who deny facts, data, and even reality itself when developing policy.
In today’s environment of school boards banning books, city leaders shunning public health best practices, and state leaders enacting extreme abortion bans, STEM professionals and data-driven policy makers can and should stand for local elections. Many of these positions are not full-time; a science-oriented professional can be a civil servant while pursuing a career as an engineer, a biology teacher or a doctor. There is almost no problem facing our country that would not benefit from having more data-driven decision makers in the public service.
That’s why the organization I founded, 314 Action, called on scientists to run for national and municipal elections. Now is the time to think about running – to think about science in the pursuit of service. We offer tools to match your interests with an appropriate elected office. We walk you through the different stages of the electoral process, whether it’s choosing a treasurer and filing your intent to execute documents, or communicating with voters and organizing your volunteers. For a beginning candidate, the process can seem daunting, and our tool breaks it down into a step-by-step process that’s easy to follow and complete.
In addition to growing our community of science donors, 314 Action has become a campaign incubator for scientists running for office. One of the organization’s first initiatives was to run candidate trainings, teaching scientists how to successfully launch a campaign and communicate their message. And we just launched a new effort to help scientists get out of the wings and into state legislatures and city offices.
While the debate within the scientific community about the degree of involvement of scientists in politics is not new, the need for a support system to get STEM candidates out of the sidelines is more than ever. necessary.
I should know.
When I ran for Congress, I knew I was a chemist, but I didn’t know much about running for public office. It was 2014, and Congress was voting for the umpteenth time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, rather than working to make health care more accessible and affordable. Gun violence has continued to claim more than 40,000 American lives a year, and yet
Congress had all but banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even compiling data on gun violence. And even though climate change was recognized as a clear threat by our military and scientific establishments, many politicians still campaigned on their skepticism.
What struck me was that these were not problems that science alone could solve. Science has already told us to look at the data, and that CO2 emissions had to be reduced. This was a problem that only a change in policy makers and their priorities could hope to solve.
Although I didn’t win my race, I learned that it takes more than passion to succeed in electoral politics. You need a network. You need campaign expertise. You need someone to show you how to convert your analytical skills into successful campaigns.
Having a STEM leader in elected office can move the needle and provide context, reasoning, and qualified argument for policy based on evidence rather than ignorance or guesswork. Examples of this at the state and municipal levels abound.
In California, Luz Rivas, a member of the state assembly, is an electrical engineer and chairs the natural resources committee. She introduced and passed legislation to establish an advanced warning and heat rating system, similar to what exists for wildfires and tornadoes.
Val Arkoosh, MD, MPH is the chairman of the Montgomery County Pennsylvania commissioners. She has used her position and expertise to systematically and equitably address the distribution of pandemic stimulus funds to increase affordable housing, access to child care, protect open spaces and expand operations. and behavioral health facilities.
And Andrew Zwicker, a New Jersey state senator with a doctorate in physics who was first elected to the State House in 2015, sponsored several bills that were signed into law to simplify voting. and participation in democracy within his state.
Of course, running for office isn’t for everyone. Making the leap is hard work, especially if you come from the hard sciences, where many of us learn little about politics and public service and the role of science in shaping society. Recognizing that we all have a civic responsibility means taking the first step: attending a school board meeting, serving on a community board, volunteering in a campaign, voting.
This is not a new concept considering the culture of support that is embedded in some other professions. For example, law firms traditionally support their associates when one of them is running for public office because law influences politics and politics influences law. Yet so does science, or at least it should, but scientists and science careers don’t have that kind of culture. While we work to change that, for scientists who are ready to take that leap, we stand ready to help. And for Americans who want a policy-making system that values science and expertise, we look forward to you joining us in that fight by supporting our work.
The future of our country and our planet depends on it.
This is an opinion and analytical article, and the opinions expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of American scientist.
#scientists #run #office #Heres #Action