Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Senator, PhD?

This summer I created an outreach piece for Research!America that was aimed at motivating researchers to become more involved in science policy. It is not hard to identify reasons for researchers to increase their roles in policy. For me, one of the more salient reasons to get involved is how underrepresented they are in Congress.

Out of 100 senators, guess how many have a Ph.D.? If the number you guessed resembles a bird egg, you'd be correct. More than three quarters of those currently in the U.S. Senate were either lawyers or businesspeople before they were elected.

The House of Representative isn't much better. To the right is a map of the U.S. and all 435 of its Congressional districts. Districts that are represented by Ph.D level researchers are in red, and sadly in this Congress there are only six. It is even more bleak when we consider Vernon Ehlers of Michigan is stepping down this term, and Jerry McNerney of California and Roscoe Barlett in Maryland are both facing very tough races. This means the number of researchers in Congress could be getting cut in half.

While all types of outreach and advocacy from researchers is crucial, we need some to actually run for office. Isn't it frustrating to think that the lawmakers that control how you do your work have completely different background from you?

This is Part 2 of 3 in the Science of Advocacy series.
Part 1 - Senator PhD?
Part 2 - Baby don't cry, baby don't get no milk
Part 3 - A=B; B=A

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