Science for the People

The March for Science has gained scorn, ridicule, and enthusiasm since the inauguration. Confused? Concerned? Want to help anyway?

Check out Science for the People, a new organization who’s primary goal is :

  • Growing an international organization of STEM workers, educators, and activists who work to serve the people — ­especially in poor, oppressed, and marginalized communities

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They give an excellent overview of the controversy and go into lots of interesting detail about the march, and what their goals are specifically.

 

We Are Never Just Scientists

During the Women’s March on Washington, a group formed called 500 women scientists. Their mission statement is to promote minorities and women in science and to make the inequality inherent in this system known.  Read about them here.

Along those same lines, for international women’s day, a few female scientists (Krista Bywater, Kristy L. Duran, Rukmani Vijayaraghavan, Claire Horner-Devine, Kelly Ramirez, Jane Zelikova) posted this excellent post on Scientific American about how as women and minorities we are never just scientists.

Please read the post, and consider marching (as a woman, as a minority, or as a white male ally) in the March for Science on April 22.

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Seismic Disruption in Medical and Science Research

What is the role of government? Above all, I think this question has been driving the political divide that has occurred since the election last November. It affects whether you think everyone should have healthcare, whether jobs should be brought back, and importantly for us, whether science should be funded.

It’s well-known within scientific communities that governments (This is universally true) are the major source of funding for all academic scientific research. And basic research is important because it expands our knowledge. Science builds on previous science, so there is no way to tell what the work we are doing now will lead to in the future. It doesn’t have to be applicable, it might become applicable in the future, or lay the foundation for applicable research. And because of this lack of immediate profitability, basic science is often not funded by for-profit companies.

So, is it the role of the government to fund science? I think so, because of the argument laid out above. But the Trump administration apparently does not share my sentiments, as their budget drastically cuts science research across all fields of research. Read about it here, or feel free to weigh in on my argument above.

Also, please note, this is why the march for science is so important. It’s not just our livelihoods that are on the line. It’s our future and the future of the next generation.

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9 Tips For Communicating Science To People Who Are Not Scientists

The clickbait title is not my own. But it is the title of an article in Forbes about how to better communicate science with the public.

The too long; didn’t read version is below, and if you’re busy and want to focus on a few, I recommend 1, 6 (“Reflect on what you want (or do not want) on the record days, months or years later and use that as a filter.”), and 9.

1. Know your audience.

2. Don’t use jargon.

3. Get to the point.

4. Use analogies and metaphors.

5. Three points. Studies continue to show that three key points are effective with audiences.

6. You are the expert.

7. Use social media.

8. The myth of “popularizers.”

9. Relate.

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The recent USDA hiring freeze may be hurting bees

I want to start with the following statement: I know the title of this post is a pretty loose link.

But hear me out. One of the less talked about moves by the executive branch since the inauguration is the hiring freeze at USDA and EPA.

This means postdocs, researchers, graduate students and temporary positions. So for example, Julia Fine who was set to start a postdoc studying bee decline in Utah on a USDA funded position was informed that her position is frozen. Indefinitely.

Since Fine is the lead author on one of the recent prominent studies of bee decline, then this hiring freeze is hurting bees.

Want the more complete story (boy I know I do), read about it over at the Huffington Post.

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Sharing words from a federal scientist.

Today is my 3rd anniversary as a federal civil servant. I work as a biologist and decision analyst for an environmental conservation agency. To become qualified to do this work, I earned a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctorate, and two years of post-doctoral training. Respectively, that equals 14 years of higher education. And I am not unique. Rather, I’m daft compared to my colleagues. They’ve got the book-smarts plus the experience and institutional knowledge that is only gained through time in Service. I feel so very lucky to be surrounded by such highly-qualified, intelligent, and dedicated professionals.
Today should be a proud day. A day of celebration. Instead, I feel sick. And demoralized. Gag orders on federal scientists? Government professionals being targeted for their work on climate change? That’s me. That’s my colleagues. We are the “swamp” that our new president keeps referring to, and I am disgusted and offended by his reference to our contribution and commitment to Public Service. Though, as an ecologist, I can’t help but point out that swamps are highly productive and important ecosystems, and draining them leads to disasters like Katrina… a point totally lost on our president.
And then there’s the issue of jobs. Our new president says he wants to bring back jobs. Which makes me wonder, do our jobs not count? Does the American public truly believe that 3 million civil servants deserve to be treated as though we’re contestants on some reality show? The myth of the “lazy, entitled” federal employee is just that. A myth. Because we exist in a consistently under-funded, not-for-profit workplace, we must do the work of two or three people to meet our performance objectives. Our workplace is a fast-paced and industrious environment. One in which we constantly struggle, like the rest of you, to find some measure of work-life balance.
The difference, I think, is that when we go to work everyday, our objective is not to maximize the number of dollars in our personal bank accounts. Nobody gets into this business for the fortune. There is no fortune for a career civil servant. We make the commitment to serve because we care deeply about social justice. My goal at work is to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. I am exceedingly aware that my salary comes from tax-payer dollars. I could not go to work if I thought those dollars weren’t benefiting the citizens of this country. And guess what? I pay taxes too.