Scientists Are Running For Congress Because "The Future Hangs In The Balance"

Nonprofit political action committee 314 Action is sending scientists to Washington. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The group was launched just this past January. Its aim is to get as many scientists as possible elected to Congress in the 2018 midterms, while displacing as many anti-science lawmakers as possible. School boards, local councils, and committees are also in their crosshairs.

“We exist not just because there’s been an assault on science,” Joshua Morrow, 314 Action’s executive director and a veteran political campaign manager, tells IFLScience. “There’s been an assault on facts.”

In the last few months, the President has placed climate change deniers like Rick Perry and Scott Pruitt in charge of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), respectively – groups they’ve long threatened to destroy. America is poised to leave the Paris agreement.

“The attacks on science certainly didn’t start with Trump, but he has been a powerful catalyst,” Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemical scientist and entrepreneur, and 314’s founder, tells IFLScience.

Emboldened by their dominance of Congress, House Republicans began to author bills that would shutter the ED and the EPA once and for all. The catastrophic GOP-authored American Health Care Act (AHCA) has just made it through the House, which if enacted into law by the Senate would strip healthcare away from tens of millions of Americans.

To add insult to injury, Trump still hasn’t appointed a scientific advisor. If anyone is ever appointed to this role, it would be perhaps the most Sisyphean task in human history.

Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist running for Congress. Jess Phoenix for Congress 2018

In the midst of this all, 314 Action grew from strength to strength beyond the founders’ wildest dreams.

“The one good thing about this election is that it has awoken a sleeping giant,” Naughton says.

“5,000 STEM professionals have reached out to us to specifically run for office. That’s huge,” Bordelon adds. “When we launched 314 back in January with a skeleton crew, we hoped to get 1,000 people by April. This blew our expectations out of the water.”

The group’s name was co-opted from numerical Pi, a curious number that appears all around us in nature and our everyday lives.

“Like Pi, science is all around us,” the group’s mission statement reads. Now that thousands of scientists across the US have joined their movement, this sentiment is particularly apt.

Asked about the caliber of the scientists actually running for Congress, Naughton quickly responds: “They’re awesome!”

This isn’t difficult to agree with. You’ve got California’s Jess Phoenix, an appropriately named, globe-trotting, thrill-seeking volcanologist who comes from a family of FBI agents; then there’s New York’s Patrick Madden, a pioneering computer scientist with a mastery of mathematical wizardry; or how about Texas’ Jason Westin, an award-winning cancer and stem cell researcher?

Public enemy number one? jctabb/Shutterstock
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