Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

From the Lab to the Statehouse

November 2017 saw the beginning of what is being called a "blue wave" of Democratic electoral victories, with elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere. But as at least 17 candidates with backgrounds in STEM fields also won various seats, "the so-called blue wave was also, at least partly, a nerdy one," The Atlantic says.

In 2018, even more scientists are running for seats across the country. Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist by training and a former breast-cancer researcher, founded 314 Action — a political-action committee that supports scientists running for office by helping them to find staff, plan campaigns, and connect with potential donors, according to The Atlantic.

In January 2017, more than 400 people had filled out 314 Action's recruitment form. Now, they've had more than 7,000. "There was a spike in interest after Trump’s inauguration, and another when Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement," The Atlantic says." "'There's been one thing after another with this administration that's engaged our community,' Naughton says."

But political consultant Kelly Gibson tells the magazine that Trump is doing more that just outraging scientists. "For better or worse, Trump has changed the perceived necessities about running for office," she says. "You don't need to be elected at local or state levels, or even 'understand' how politics works, to be elected. It opened things up for people in education, the arts, and the sciences. That's why there's been this surge in nontraditional political candidates."

"In total, 314 Action estimates that around 60 people with stem backgrounds are running in federal elections, while another 250 or so are competing at the state level," The Atlantic says.

But they're not all going to get elected. Some have already dropped out. Others have lost special elections. Yet others, like evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen, are running in crowded fields or challenging powerful incumbents.

Also, many of the STEM professionals running may not realize how different a campaign is from their normal careers. For example, spending hours on the phone each day trying to raise campaign funds can be jarring, The Atlantic says.

Others are finding it hard to go from "the cold, caveat-filled, jargon-heavy lingo of scientific discourse" to giving stump speeches that are supposed to sound warm and inspiring to an audience of hundreds, the article adds.

"Evidence shows that public trust in scientists is very high. For example, surveys from the Pew Research Center show 76 percent of Americans saying that they have a great deal or a fair amount of trust in scientists to act in the best interests of the public — a proportion that has remained stable for decades," The Atlantic says. "By contrast, just 27 percent feel the same way about elected officials. It remains to be seen how they’ll feel about scientists who become elected officials."

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.