Stand Up for STEM

Advocacy and diversity in STEM

Interested in a career in science education? Check this out!

The Versatile PhD is hosting a web-based panel discussion on careers in informal science education (read: science education outside of the classroom). Panelists holding jobs in nonprofits, science centers, and government agencies will introduce themselves on February 23rd and answer your questions until the 27th. No registration necessary, but you’ll need to join VPhD to participate (VPhD is an amazing community for those exploring a variety of career paths, so joining the website is really just giving yourself a present. Do it!) More information about the panel here.

Excellent Interview on Research Regarding Women in STEM

Those who know me know there are two things I care very strongly about: women in science, and podcasts.

Naturally I was very intrigued by the recent Science for the People rebroadcast regarding women in STEM. I always enjoy Science for the People, but I particularly endorse the second interview in this episode.

Dr. Hazari discusses research based techniques educators can use to retain women in STEM disciplines. I was surprised to find that many things she said do NOT work (for example, discussing historical female scientists in lectures) were what I had been exposed to, while those things that DO work (for example, discussing microagressions) I had never experienced in my classes. I wish I had heard this before attending last year’s Diversity Dialogues, as it may have influenced my suggestions!

Perceptions and Politics

Last October, as the presidential election approached, I found myself nerdily excited when for the first time in my life I received a call from a polling agency.  They asked me a few demographic questions, what party I identified with, and who I was going to vote for.  Then they asked me to pick from a list of issues what had most influenced my decision to vote for my chosen candidate.  I listened carefully as the pollster read through the list, carefully waiting for “funding for research” or some variation thereof, but found nothing remotely close.

This experience stuck with me, because I personally feel that there is a lack of public and political support for researchers right now.  I’m not sure if this driven by misperceptions, as were recently discussed on NPRs science and culture blog <> or simply lack of awareness, but outside of our academic sphere I don’t feel that there is a strong rallying of congress for the cause of research funding.  Regardless of if you agree or disagree with this assessment, I think it’s important for us as researchers to be aware of how we are perceived in these arenas.  Ultimately much funding for science comes from national institutes and organizations, and I hope that politicians listen to their constituencies in making these important funding decisions.

I have been impressed since coming to Davis with our community outreach activities, including Brain Awareness Week in schools and the farmer’s market.  Thomas Pollard also wrote an article which speaks to some direct ways to make politicians aware of the needs of research <>, whatever you may see those to be.  (Brief disclaimer, while I do try to regularly write letters to my representatives, I’ll admit I find some of his “obligations” outside of my budget.)   I feel both garnering community support and directly advocating for ourselves are important things for us to do as scientists, and I hope that with time they will be seen as a natural part of our workday, rather than something we have to make time for.

I invite further resources (or disagreement) in comments.  Do you feel there is currently support for science research?

Speak up for Science!

As we all know, the relationship between science and funding has always been (and will likely continue to be) somewhat volatile, unpredictable … and somehow still largely cyclical. Especially at a time of national economic instability, the relationship between federal funding and scientific research continues to be strained.  As Sam Lockhart reminded us back in September, Sequestration would mean huge cuts to science funding. If you’d like to show your support for science funding, read the message from AAAS below and consider signing the petition here.

From American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

In early January, Congress came to an agreement that delayed the automatic cuts triggered by sequestration until March 1. As of today, our political leaders have made little progress towards a comprehensive deficit reduction plan. This means that the sequestration remains very much within the realm of possibility. 

If sequestration does come to pass, AAAS estimates that we would lose $54 billion in federal scientific R&D funding between now and the year 2017.

As we once again move to the edge of the “fiscal cliff” we are asking you to raise your voice in support of federal research and development funding. Please take a moment to sign the petition that we will share with leaders of both branches of government urging them to protect funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The time to act is now. If triggered, these spending cuts will have a massive and potentially devastating impact on our nation’s health, economy, and security. Indiscriminate cuts will do significant damage to the scientific enterprise, ending promising research projects, eliminating jobs, and stalling the innovation process.

Let’s come together as a community and insist that the future of innovation be protected. Let’s “Speak Up For Science”. Together we can make a difference.