Tomorrow is Election Day, and it’s worth reflecting on how a STEM* identity connects with a political identity. The science blog Sister and Science Rising have put together a fantastic new blog series from women scientists exploring how STEM can be political (yet not partisan), and explaining how working in STEM can profoundly shape advocacy work. They are well worth a read as you head to the polls.
Some people argue that science is above politics. That science is value-neutral. That science is simply the discovery and delivery of facts. Yet when one turns to the dictionary, politics is defined as the total complex of relations between people living in a society. Politics is all about resources and power over those resources.
After that realization, it’s not a big leap to understand science and politics are intertwined, both inside the research community (which, after all, consists of human beings) and in the greater world. From a variety of perspectives and lived experiences, the eight scientists explore how they found their research being influenced by all kinds of politics. Many also look at how politics impacts the distribution of power within science and in the greater world, which is why so many of these blogs address equity and justice and the need to confront oppression.
- Microbial ecologist Janani Hariharan writes about the systems and thinking that marginalize her as a scientist of color. “If science is about the spirit of inquiry and improving humankind’s experiences,” she says, “questioning the systems and institutions where we perform science should fit right in with this spirit.”
- Pharmacologist Andrea Guzman shares her experience pursuing a Ph.D. while so many changes are taking place in her home of Puerto Rico. Without expecting it,” she says, “I found a way to thrive in these two places at once by becoming an advocate and taking action.”
- Zooarchaeologist Alex Fitzpatrick analyzes the slow decolonization of archaeology. “For too long we have been curated by others, objectified in studies, and not given the chance to be the expert,” she writes. “Now, we get an active hand in interpreting our collective past, and becoming our own curators.”
- Chemist and education PhD student Charnell Long comments on racial and gender health disparities and a system that fails Black women. “I am pushing the STEM community to invest in Black women by advocating for policies that support, promote, and fund their intellectual pursuits,” she writes.
- Glaciologist Yasmin Cole explores how studying sea ice awakened her to the need for political engagement. “Our roles as people in STEM and people who can vote are intertwined,” she writes.
- Interdisciplinary researcher Kaytee Canfield writes that scholar-activists “aim to create on-the-ground change for the communities with whom they work.”
- Epidemiologist Christine Kamamia reveals how underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minorities in HIV/AIDS research has caused her to face a culture of exclusion. “It’s up to us to push through the obstacles systemically placed in front of us to make sure we are heard,” she writes.
- Sea ice and glacial hazard researcher Dina Abdel-Fattah looks at how politics needs science, and science needs politics. “My work is applied and human-focused, which also means it is inherently political,” she writes.
*Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math