In 1970 what was the ratio of Science-for-the-people members and the
entire number of scientists in the U.S.? Or what was the ratio of MLA
Radical Caucus members to the entire membership of MLA?
I don't know the answer to either question -- but I would guess that the
ratios would show that a Congress made up of scientists and humanists
would not be any better than the present Congress. Didn't Chomsky once
say he would rather be governed by the first 30 people one met on a
Boston sidewalk than by the Harvard faculty?
On 8/9/2011 9:22 AM, Larry Romsted wrote:
> A little light on the idea of science for the people.
> August 8, 2011
> Groups Call for Scientists to Engage the Body Politic
> By CORNELIA DEAN
> When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey,
> the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955,
> and the next, at 23 percent, was ³I don¹t know.² In another survey, only 4
> percent of respondents could name a living scientist.
> While these may not have been statistically rigorous exercises, they do
> point to something real: In American public life, researchers are largely
> absent. Trained to stick to the purity of the laboratory, they tend to avoid
> the sometimes irrational hurly-burly of politics.
> For example, according to the Congressional Research Service, the
> technically trained among the 435 members of the House include one
> physicist, 22 people with medical training (including 2 psychologists
> /psychology_and_psychologists/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> and a
> veterinarian), a chemist, a microbiologist and 6 engineers.
> Now several groups are trying to change that. They want to encourage
> scientists and engineers to speak out in public debates and even run for
> public office. When it comes to global warming
> inline=nyt-classifier> and a host of other technical issues, ³there is a
> disconnect between what science says and how people perceive what science
> says,² said Barbara A. Schaal, a biologist and vice president of the
> National Academy of Sciences<http://www.nationalacademies.org/> . ³We need
> to interact with the public for our good and the public good.²
> Dr. Schaal heads the academy¹s new Science Ambassador Program in which
> researchers will be recruited and trained to speak out on their areas of
> expertise. The effort will start in Pittsburgh, where scientists and
> engineers who specialize in energy will be encouraged to work with public
> organizations and agencies.
> ³We are looking for people who are energy experts and who have a real desire
> to reach out,² Dr. Schaal said.
> Separately, a five-year-old nonprofit group called Scientists and Engineers
> for America<http://www.sefora.org/> , or Sefora, offers guidance and
> encouragement to researchers considering a run for public office ‹ from
> local school boards to the House and Senate. With more scientists involved
> in the legislative agenda, the group maintains, there can be better decision
> making in things like research financing, math and science education and
> national infrastructure problems.
> ³Just get involved, the country needs your expertise, your analytical
> thinking and your approach to issues,² Vernon Ehlers, a physicist who came
> to Congress in 1993, says in a video on the Sefora Web site. ³If you can
> learn nuclear physics, you can learn politics.²
> In a telephone interview, Dr. Ehlers, a Michigan Republican who retired this
> year, said he thinks a kind of ³reverse snobbery² keeps researchers out of
> public life. ³You have these professors struggling to write their $30,000
> grant applications at the same time there are people they would never accept
> in their research groups making $100-million decisions in the National
> Science Foundation or the Department of Energy,² he said. He said it was
> ³shortsighted² of the science and engineering community not to encourage
> ³some of their best and brightest² into public life.
> Until this year, Dr. Ehlers was part of a three-man physics caucus in the
> House, along with Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, who was elected to
> Congress in 1998, and Bill Foster, Democrat of Illinois, who won his seat in
> 2008 but lost it last year to a Republican with Tea Party
> vement/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> support.
> This year, Dr. Ehlers and Dr. Foster formed a bipartisan political action
> committee they called Ben Franklin¹s List, whose goal was to offer engineers
> and scientists the credibility and money they need to win office.
> ³Scientist, politician, patriot,² Dr. Foster said of Franklin. ³It¹s all
> Ben Franklin¹s List was to be modeled on Emily¹s List, a group organized in
> 1985 to advance the cause of female candidates who supported abortion
> ne=nyt-classifier> rights. But Ben Franklin¹s List would have no
> ideological litmus test.
> In a sense, however, the project is suffering from its own ethos: Dr.
> Foster, its major organizer, announced in May that he was a candidate for
> Congress again and therefore would have to withdraw from the effort.
> ³There¹s no way I can run a nonpartisan organization the same time I am
> running for Congress,² he said.
> Dr. Foster, a onetime physicist at Fermilab, said he feared his departure
> for the campaign trail would be ³a mortal blow² to Ben Franklin¹s List. But
> Dr. Ehlers would not declare it dead, even though the project is more than
> he can run himself, especially since he is out of Washington now. He said he
> hoped others would embrace the idea.
> ³I would be willing to join forces with them,² he said. ³I am happy to help
> Generally, hopes for technical bipartisanship rest in part on the belief ‹
> widespread among researchers ‹ that the nation¹s engineers, as a group, tend
> to be Republicans while its academic scientists tend to be Democrats. And in
> theory, as Dr. Foster put it, if people on both sides of the aisle can agree
> on ³the quantitative facts² of an issue, policy differences need not
> inevitably lead to bitter partisan gridlock.
> In other efforts, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
> offers fellowships
> <http://fellowships.aaas.org/02_Areas/02_Congressional.shtml> that put new
> Ph.D. researchers into Congressional offices and federal agencies. And the
> Aldo Leopold Leadership Program<http://www.leopoldleadership.org/> offers
> environmental researchers training in how to communicate with the public and
> policy makers. One of its founders was Jane Lubchenco, a marine scientist
> who left a research position at Oregon State University in 2008 to lead the
> National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
> Sometimes finances are an issue. ³It¹s difficult to monetize something like
> this,² said Brian D. Athey, a professor of biomedical informatics at the
> University of Michigan Medical School and the chairman of the board of
> Sefora. And he said Sefora did not know how many of the scientists and
> engineers who have attended its workshops have sought ‹ or won ‹ elected
> office. ³We need informed members of Congress, we need informed city mayors,
> we need governors who understand science and engineering,² Dr. Athey said.
> There is plenty of scope for these efforts, said Dr. Foster, who cited
> ³glaring instances of technical ignorance on both sides of the aisle.² He
> recalled a fellow Democrat (whom he would not name) as advocating greater
> use of wind power ³because windmills poll so well² ‹ which is not, Dr.
> Foster said, a sound basis for energy policy. And then there was the
> Republican who praised the development of GPS technology as an example of
> innovation unfettered by government, apparently unaware that the technology
> is a product of government-sponsored research.
> Whether these various efforts can succeed is an open question.
> Daniel S. Greenberg, author of the 2001 book ³Science, Money and Politics²
> (University of Chicago Press), said in an interview that he thought the odds
> of success were ³pretty poor,² in part because of the widespread belief that
> such activity is inappropriate for serious researchers or taints their
> objectivity. He pointed to the presidential election of 1964, when
> scientists organized opposition to Barry Goldwater, the Republican
> candidate. Goldwater was defeated, but, Mr. Greenberg said, the effort left
> many researchers feeling ³we have sullied science.²
> Even today, when researchers enter the political arena, ³the scientific
> establishment holds that against a scientist to some extent,² Dr. Holt, the
> New Jersey congressman, said in a telephone interview.
> Alan I. Leshner, a psychologist who heads the American Association for the
> Advancement of Science, agreed. He recalled learning as a young scientist in
> the 1960s that people who engaged in issues outside the lab ³were wasting
> ml?inline=nyt-classifier> time and a sellout.² Young researchers today want
> their work to be ³relevant, useful and used,² he said, but ³they still get
> that message from their mentors.²
> Some researchers are concerned that if they leave the lab, even briefly,
> they will never be able to pick up the thread of their technical careers.
> But Dr. Foster said he had had no shortage of interesting job opportunities
> in science after his two years in Congress. And, he added, such risks were
> built into public service.
> ³If you are a businessman, your business goes off the rails,² Dr. Foster
> said. ³If you are a lawyer, your practice will degrade. You are asking
> people to make a sacrifice, no question about it.²
> In an interview last week, Dr. Foster compared what he called political
> logic with scientific logic, citing the debate over the debt ceiling
> debt_us/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier> . ³The political logic is Œwhat I
> can get away with saying that people will believe,¹ ² he said. ³The
> scientific logic is Œwhat are the best estimates for the relevant numbers.¹
> ² When the two collide, he said, ³the political logic is overwhelming.²
> Still, he plans to break away from his Congressional campaign this week to
> address a conference at Brown University organized by the American Physical
> Society, the nation¹s major organization of physicists. He developed the
> outlines of his talk when he was working on Ben Franklin¹s List. His topic:
> being a scientist in Congress.
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