An antiscience political climate is driving scientists to run for office

March for Science 2017
CLIMATE CHANGE Hundreds of scientists have moved beyond marching and are now hoping to storm Washington (and beyond) as politicians.

The upwelling of science activism witnessed in last year’s March for Science led many to predict that a flood of scientists might leave the lab for the legislature. Now, on the eve of the second March for Science, a survey of the field suggests that’s the case.

As many as 450 scientists-turned-politicians are throwing their hats into state, local, and federal campaigns, according to 314 Action. The advocacy group (named for the first three digits of pi) encourages and supports people with science and technology backgrounds interested in running for office.

Founded in 2016, the group saw a huge surge in interest after Donald Trump was elected president, says 314 Action spokesperson Ted Bordelon. As many as 7,000 potential candidates reached out to 314 Action, though the realities of running have winnowed that number down.

“The attacks on science certainly didn’t start with Trump,” Bordelon says. “But he has been a huge catalyst. That may be one of the bright spots of his presidency — more scientists saying they want to be in the ring when it comes to lawmaking.”

With midterm elections looming this fall, some 25 scientists are running at the federal level. Depending how you count, that’s more than double the current number of science-trained members of Congress, not including physicians. The candidates’ backgrounds run the scientific gamut from aerospace to neuroscience to epidemiology.

One candidate is biochemist Randy Wadkins. His first hankering to run…

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