Scientists get involved in Democracy
After the stress of the midterms, I definitely needed a break from political news. After being inundated with polls and stats, I just wanted to know what policies candidates supported and whether those policies were supported by scientific evidence. Too bad I only discovered We the Scientists after I cast my early vote!
We the Scientists is a student-led organization from Columbia University. I spoke with Macayla Donegan about what inspired her & her collaborators to start this project. She said they were “inspired by wanting fact and evidence-based policy” but not having an easy way to organize the information that’s out there.
To address this gap, Donegan and her fellow graduate students created We the Scientists as a one-stop shop to learn about national representatives from across the United States and whether their positions match up with the science. Using a map, visitors to the site can look up their state representatives and compare the Rep’s voting record to primary source scientific data (with a non-jargony shorthand version also available).
The organization is continuing to grow and they also include other useful frameworks for scientists like how to write an OpEd and a Late Night Science program to engage the local public and show them the research their tax dollars support.
As for We the Scientist’s next steps, they’re currently chapter-izing to help spread the reach of the program. Donegan mentioned that as grad students, it’s a lot of extra work to run this program as a side project, but they think the best way to expand is through connections with other academics. “We have a pipeline,” Donegan said. “We have some code on how to implement this.” Donegan explained to me that all they need now are some partners who care about understanding scientifically supported policies and engaging in our democracy.
You can find We the Scientists at their website as well as on twitter, facebook, and instagram!