This month I go on full time leave from my position as National Laboratory Physicist, a job I’ve held since 1996. Only by separating myself from the Federal site and funding can I take the next step in my journey to explore how much scientists have to offer when they directly enter policy and politics.
The best journeys bring fellow travelers close. Here on Long Island, New York, Stony Brook University is launching a program called STRIDE, Science Training & Research to Inform DEcisions, to “provide STEM graduate students with unique interdisciplinary skills to assist, create, and eventually lead in the translation of complex data-enabled research into informed decisions and sound policies.” I'm on their Brown Bag Lunch schedule for October, to discuss: “Should Science Be Politicized?” A topic dear to my heart from school days. This week, I joined STRIDE in the studio to shoot a clip for their introductory video. Hope you enjoy this picture from the making-of!
It's now my job to discuss Science In Politics all day, and I love sharing news. One supporter of a Scientist for Congress told me his donation was the first he'd made since Obama in 2008. Another smilingly said he'd have to check the Democratic candidate’s platform first, being a fiscal conservative and a registered Republican! Most people already trust scientists. Every day I meet another person excited at the prospect of having a Scientist represent New York's 1st.
Of course, some approach with the Doubt-Raising Questions. You know, those most polite and politically correct ways of saying “we don't think we want what you are.” Don't I think it's risky, don't I think someone else would have more clout? Don't I think the scientist should maybe do some other race, but not this one?
The Doubt-Raising Questions and I nod and smile and say, “Thanks, we've already met.” No one in a career like mine misses out on the Doubt-Raising Questions, and by the time you get to my pay grade, you're on a first name basis and chat with them over coffee in Hiring Committees, Human Resources training classes, and Diversity & Inclusion seminars.
Ideals by their very nature can never be too high. Carrying out work that was impossible five years ago, that's what we do in my profession every day. I'm exploring Scientists in Congress because I can see what's possible – voters like you have the power to rescue their Congress from this standoff, this confusion, this denial-of-facts attack.