Shortly after the election, I wrote about why scientists and engineers should run for office. As leaders in Congress and local governments, we would be able to influence policy by incorporating our expertise where it critically matters on issues like climate change, energy, food, health and so much more.
But you don't have to be an elected official to be engaged and work for change...
After Trump's 2016 victory, graduate students at the University of California, Davis founded Science Informed Leadership - a group working to make sure that appointed federal leaders value science and use scientific evidence to stand up for science-based decision making.
In just a couple of months, over 122,000 graduate students from across the U.S. signed on an open letter to senators urging them to approve presidential appointees to cabinet-level positions and federal agencies “that promote the inclusion of science in policy-making.” Those signing the letter represent a range of political backgrounds but are united in the belief that science drives innovation, illuminates problems and generates evidence-based solutions that fuel economic growth and protect the health and well-being of citizens.
SIL hopes to build support for a national conversation about the value of science, provide a pathway for all citizens to get involved with the promotion of science and help cement the place of science in our political system. They have coordinated letter-writing and phone banking campaigns and launched a web-app that provides resources for constituents of any state to easily compile printable letters and calling scripts focused on science issues of particular importance to their state and their senators.
The more that we reach out to elected officials about the importance of science in the policy-making process, the louder our collective voice will be. Letters from SIL highlight several key agencies - like DOE, DOI, HHS, Education, EPA, OSTP, and NASA - whose activities are shaped by science and who have a direct impact on U.S. innovation.
ScienceDebate and SIL aim to change the conversation in Congress and restore science to its rightful place in decision-making. We both believe that a science-informed appointee should have a track record of making decisions based on evidence, no conflicts of interest with organizations that actively work to suppress scientific opinion and a commitment to engaging the scientific community in relevant policy decisions.
But it will take more than graduate students to achieve change. It will also take many voices outside of the science community who recognize the significance of research and innovation in the policy process.
So what can you do today?
Stand up for science-based decision making. Explore the app. Volunteer. Call your elected representatives. Write letters. Support the Union of Concerned Scientists. And the Center for American Progress. And ScienceDebate. And so many more groups working to make sure science is central to decision-making across levels of governance. Stay engaged beyond this weekend. Run for office. Demand better. After all, that's how Democracy works.