Geneticist Announces Congressional Bid

UC Berkeley researcher Michael Eisen says he will run for Senate in 2018.

Jan 30, 2017
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, PLOSGeneticist Michael Eisen of the University of California, Berkeley, has been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump. Now, the researcher has announced his intent to run for US Senate. “We can't sit around and hope other people are going to solve our problems for us - time to step up, if you can…,” Eisen posted on his Twitter account on Sunday (January 29) after announcing his senate run last week (January 25).

“Too much of the scientific establishment looks at the government as a bank—that the primary thing we should worry about is can we get the right amount of money out of Congress,” Eisen told Science. “Too few people focus on the fact that science needs to be a partnership with the public for it to thrive.”

Eisen, who told Science that he plans to run as an independent, is perhaps the most recognizable name in a list of other scientists who are considering running for office to combat policies that seem broadly antagonistic to science. The groundswell is partly thanks to 314 Action, an organization run by chemist and former breast cancer researcher Shaughnessy Naughton, who ran for Congress in 2014 and 2016 but lost both races. Through 314 Action, Naughton and others are encouraging scientists to run for office and inject science into the federal political infrastructure. “A lot of scientists traditionally feel that science is above politics but we’re seeing that politics is not above getting involved in science,” Naughton told The Atlantic. “We’re losing, and the only way to stop that is to get more people with scientific backgrounds at the table.”

Donald Trump assuming the presidency earlier this month seems to have catalyzed scientists, not just into marching in protest against the new administration's science policies, but into running for office. “I think most scientists view their work as pure and noble, and politics as a dirty game. It’s almost like selling out or going to the dark side,” Frances Colón, who was Deputy Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, told The Atlantic. “Many more scientists are realizing why their voices are needed. I’ve had numerous coffees with people who are considering ways to run.”