US Scientists Running for Office in Record Numbers

A science-oriented political action committee is supporting candidates across the country.

Mar 5, 2018
Jim Daley

ISTOCK, ADAMKAZ

Only one member of Congress currently holds a PhD in science, but Bill Foster (D-IL), a physicist who formerly worked at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, may soon have some company. More than 60 candidates running for federal office in 2018 have backgrounds in science and technology, according to HuffPost.

“The attacks on science and the scientific method and just generally the disrespect for scientific truth is something that has all scientists on edge,” Foster told The New Republic last year.

Aerospace engineer and candidate for Texas’s 21st Congressional District Joseph Kosper agrees with Foster. “I absolutely feel that science is under attack,” Kosper tells The Washington Post. “It’s the opposite of when John F. Kennedy said he wanted to get us to the moon in less than 10 years. The way Trump is going, in 10 years, he’ll have us back in caves.” Kosper has a significant fundraising lead over his opponents, according to Science, which tagged him as one of several “candidates to watch” last month.

Kosper’s primary motivation for running was to unseat incumbent Lamar Smith, who has held office since 1987. Kosper’s website calls Smith, who is retiring this year, “one of American politics’ principal opponents of . . . fact-based scientific inquiry.” According to Ars Technica, Smith has accused climate scientists of operating “outside the principles of the scientific method.”

Kosper is one of several candidates supported by 314 Action, a political action committee (PAC) that helps scientists running for office connect with donors and plan campaigns. 314 Action was founded in 2014 by chemist and former breast cancer researcher Shaughnessy Naughton after she ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th District. The organization saw a surge in interest after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and again when the administration left the Paris Climate Agreement, The Atlantic reports. “There’s been one thing after another with this administration that’s engaged our community,” Naughton tells The Atlantic. She adds that more than 7,000 people have filled out 314 Action’s candidate recruitment form since January 2017. The PAC is currently working with 30 congressional candidates nationwide, according to The Post.

“I’ve always had a hard time understanding why members of Congress like to tell scientists how to conduct their research,” Foster told The New Republic in 2017. “Scientists should set the standards for research. Not politicians.”