Americans “need leaders to protect the integrity of science,” according to Neal Lane, Bill Clinton’s science advisor from 1998-2001, and before that the director of the NSF. He said that in announcing the kick-off of Scientists and Engineers for America, a new 527 that will be fighting to protect scientific integrity.
Lane explained that the group will not be partisan, because people will “lose confidence in science if it is used to advance a political agenda.” The goal is to encourage lawmakers to take scientific advice seriously and to respond seriously to issues that arise. The goal is to change awareness, not particular people. Nobel laureate Peter Agre talked about a Senate hearing where only one senator was there to hear a scientist’s testimony, and made it clear that the 15 committee members who didn’t show up, Republicans and Democrats, deserved criticism for their absence. The hope is to raise the profile of science and prevent those sorts of snafus.
The group is starting its fundraising by reaching out to small donors, and hopes to hit 1,000 new members by Friday. As a member, you’d join luminaries like Lane, Peter Agre, and Susan Wood, who resigned from the FDA to protest the Bush administration’s abuses of science.
The group will be helping scientists and activists in key congressional races, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, as well as the stem cell initiative in Missouri. I’m told they also hope to work on school board races.
Susan Wood emphasized that “this matters to us as people,” not just as scientists. Neal Lane echoed that sentiment, pointing out that he’s doing this for his grandchildren, and expressed optimism about the efforts to change the way things are going, given the general sense in polling that the country is moving in the wrong direction.
If you think our national priorities have gone astray, and want leaders who will stand up for science, contact the group and see how you can help them. This is a long-term effort, and one that is worth all of our time and effort.