Science

Community members in St. Rose, Louisiana set up buckets for data collection in front of an oil refinery. YES! Photo by Marc Pagani

With the immediate censure of government-related scientific personnel from the EPA and the Dept. of Agriculture communicating with the news media, it is clear that the Trump administration does not support an open forum for science and related progress. This lack of transparency coupled with the hiring freeze for federal employees in related areas, is consistent with campaign rhetoric questioning the reliability of claims of recognized experts in many scientific fields. Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper took a similar approach during his tenure which ultimately drove some of Canada's best and brightest STEM experts to leave. David Tarasick, a senior scientist with Canada’s ECCC (their EPA), recently said, “There was a feeling that the government was not interested in expert opinion, and I think it’s the same kind of thing that you are probably going to see with the new [Trump] administration”.  Another tangible example of this censorship was the immediate retraction of the National Park Service Twitter account remarks days after Trump's inauguration.

Some of the most damning evidence of the administration’s distrust of the scientific community can be seen in the roster of potential senior cabinet nominees. Names recently floated for head of FDA included two individuals tied to Silicon Valley, Jim O’Neill and Balaji Srinivasan, individuals with strong ties to Peter Thiel, an early supporter of Trump, but with little experience in the science of pharmaceuticals. This lack of acknowledgment of the real value of scientific experience in a senior cabinet member continues with the nomination of Rick Perry to the post of Secretary of Energy, a position for which he needed to be briefed on the core purpose of the organization. The choice of leadership for these organizations speaks volumes regarding our country’s dedication to using real science to improve the living conditions of our citizens, as well as the citizens of the world.

Actions

Show a scientist some love – thank them publicly (letters to the editor) and privately for the work they are doing.

Volunteer with a science fair or robotics team at a public school.

Become a citizen scientist investigating weather and climate change with iSeeChange, chronicling plants and animals with iNaturalist or Nature’s Notebook, or observing clouds for NASA’s GLOBE program. Zooniverse, Planet HuntersSciStarter, Public Lab and the National Wildlife Federation offer lots more ideas and ways to participate.

Setup an open community citizen science lab – get inspired by Counter Culture Labs in Oakland.

Investigate environmental concerns with techniques from the nonprofit Public Lab.

Use your STEM background and volunteer to tutor in math and science in a public school.

Educate yourself – Check out Science Friday including a recent episode on conveying science across partisan lines. Listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist warn that science denial could ultimately destroy democracy. Watch TEDTalks (or listen to TEDTalks on Podcasts) instead of your favorite stream.

Local and National Organizations

314 Action – a political action committee working to recruit and elect representatives with STEM backgrounds.

KC STEM Alliance – encouraging STEM education and careers

Science City – Science museum at Union Station

Science Friday – The popular NPR Friday afternoon science show.

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