314 Action Is on the Forefront in The “War Against Science”

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Scientists, science-minded citizens, and others have been appalled by what some claim is the Trump Administration’s “War on Science.” Besides stepping away from the Paris climate accords, officials appointed to important positions such as head of the EPA Scott Pruitt and Dept. of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, are a testament to the administration’s attitude towards science. Pruitt challenged the EPA in court 14 times before taking his current position. While Perry has publically stated that fossil fuels actually save lives.

Environmental research has been defunded. And other actions have raised concern. Recently, a US Forestry scientist was blocked from speaking at the International Fire Congress by the Trump administration, about how global warming is affecting forest fires. The week previous, three climate scientists were barred by the EPA from attending a Rhode Island talk about climate change. And these are just the most current examples.

Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt. Credit: Getty Images.

This isn’t just coming from the White House. It’s a systemic problem. Scientists are woefully underrepresented in Congress. To date, there’s only one practicing scientist in that branch. Lawyers, career politicians, and business people make up the lion’s share. Then there’s the practice of science. Taking a year off to raise money and campaign takes time away from the lab, making one essentially obsolete. Science is too demanding a master and running for office too time consuming, in addition to being laborious and expensive. Meanwhile, many law firms encourage members to take time off to run for office.

Another problem is a prevailing view among the STEM community that science is pure and politics is tainted. They’d rather rise above and leave politics to others. Now, one organization seeks to get scientists to enter the fray or at least get involved. It’s called 314 Action.

This is a 501(c) 4 grassroots organization based in Washington, D.C., founded by scientists. They support candidates’ campaigns financially through donations, offer a training program for those new to the process, promote science, and increase public engagement with the STEM community. 314 is of course a reference to PI, an irrational number we’re surrounded by constantly, whether we know it or not.

I got to talk to 314 Action founder Shaughnessy Naughton recently about her organization. Ms. Naughton was originally a breast cancer researcher, a chemist. Fed up with congress, she herself became a candidate for Pennsylvania’s 8th district in 2014. “Ultimately, I did not win the primary,” she said. “But what I learned…

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