Get political, scientists

A former Congressman, speaking at a meeting of researchers, policy makers, and advocates last Friday (May 9), urged scientists to become intimately involved in the political process. And he encouraged the nation's scientists to do much more than just cast their votes for the candidates of their choice in upcoming elections. "Get inside their campaigns and then press to get science in their messages to voters," said linkurl:John Porter,;http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=P0

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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May 11, 2008
A former Congressman, speaking at a meeting of researchers, policy makers, and advocates last Friday (May 9), urged scientists to become intimately involved in the political process. And he encouraged the nation's scientists to do much more than just cast their votes for the candidates of their choice in upcoming elections. "Get inside their campaigns and then press to get science in their messages to voters," said linkurl:John Porter,;http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=P000444 who represented Illinois' 10th District for 21 years, at the linkurl:AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy;http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/forum.htm held in Washington, D.C. last week. Porter told scientists that the way to get science policy and funding issues onto the political radar in this heated election year is to "get outside your comfort zone and get in the game." He instructed scientists to call their favorite candidate - whether they are running for local, state, or national office - and offer their services....
volved in the political process. And he encouraged the nation's scientists to do much more than just cast their votes for the candidates of their choice in upcoming elections. "Get inside their campaigns and then press to get science in their messages to voters," said linkurl:John Porter,;http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=P000444 who represented Illinois' 10th District for 21 years, at the linkurl:AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy;http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/forum.htm held in Washington, D.C. last week. Porter told scientists that the way to get science policy and funding issues onto the political radar in this heated election year is to "get outside your comfort zone and get in the game." He instructed scientists to call their favorite candidate - whether they are running for local, state, or national office - and offer their services. Porter said to call a candidate and ask to be a part of his/her scientific advisory committee. "If they don't have one," he said, "tell them you'll make them one." Porter, a self-described "science advocate" who won the 2000 linkurl:Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award;http://www.laskerfoundation.org/awards/2000public.htm for promoting medical research, also said he believed that the director of the federal linkurl:Office of Science and Technology Policy;http://www.ostp.gov/ should be a member of our next president's cabinet. Currently this is not a cabinet-level linkurl:position.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/24892/ Porter also suggested other ways for scientists to linkurl:affect science policy.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/53611/ He advised writing linkurl:op/ed pieces,;http://www.the-scientist.com/2008/2/1/29/1/ creating blogs, and even taking local science reporters to lunch to inform them of your research and views (an excellent idea in my opinion). "Use your creative powers to think of ways to bring the importance of science home to policy makers and the public," Porter said. Porter's speech was so charged that he rebuffed warnings from the session's moderator, __New York Times__ reporter Claudia Dreifus, that he was overrunning his 15-minute time limit. "I'm going to finish," he said after one such warning. "I want to get the message out." At one point, Porter deadpanned: "Run for office yourself." After a pregnant pause, the audience erupted in giggles. Porter closed his speech by saying, "Science needs you. Your country needs you. America needs you in the public arena fighting for science." A rousing eruption of applause followed before Porter, who is now a partner at law firm Hogan and Hartson, left the stage and the forum to participate in another panel across town.

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