A New Group Wants To Help More Scientists Run For Office

This strategy could have a real impact.

A new group called 314 Action has announced plans to encourage and assist some of the nation's brightest scientific minds to run for office. Faced with disavowal of the science on climate change, vaccines, and even evolution from powerful lawmakers, members of the STEM community decided that the best way to counter anti-science policies is to put more scientists on Capitol Hill. 

Aptly named after the first three digits of the Pi, 314 Action's website states that it "champions electing more leaders to the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive and Legislative offices who come from STEM backgrounds. We need new leaders who understand that climate change is real and are motivated to find a solution."



Activists at the People's Climate March in 2014.  andyparker72 / Shutterstock.com.

The scant number of politicians with science backgrounds in the U.S. has raised many questions. Do scientists simply have little interest in dabbling in the messy political world? Do Americans not elect scientists because, as the New York Times claimed, "Americans have long privately dismissed scientists and mathematicians as impractical and elitist"? Whatever the theories behind this, 314 Action aims to increase their representation in politics the same way other organizations are pushing for more women, veterans, and minorities to run for office.

Joe Trippi, a longtime political consultant who ran Howard Dean's presidential campaign, told Motherboard in an interview, "I haven't met a lot of scientists that have harbored personal ambitions to run for office, which is something we saw with a lot of Iraq veterans initially. But you see organizations recruiting and finding vets who are interested, and you're seeing a lot of success there. I think that can be replicated."

President Barack Obama poses for a selfie with famed science communicators Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
President Barack Obama poses for a selfie with famed science communicators Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

It's no surprise that scientists are getting organized ahead of the transfer of power on Jan. 20. Shaughnessy Naughton, the board president of 314 Action who ran for Congress in 2014, told Motherboard that involving people who are pro-science in crafting legislation is paramount. "The goal is not to politicize science, but to get scientists involved in politics," she said, adding later: "We need people willing to stand up for the facts."

Cover image via Ryan Rodrick Beiler / Shutterstock.com.

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