Science for Puerto Rico Solidarity Brigade, July 19-29

Science for the People’s Science for Puerto Rico Working Group is leading a solidarity brigade to the island, July 19-29, 2018. While a new hurricane season has begun, Puerto Ricans still face many frontline struggles in infrastructure, food, and housing in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The volunteers in this brigade will contribute to ongoing community projects while cultivating relationships with existing groups, including Casa Pueblo Puerto Rico, to help the people of Puerto Rico build resilient, community-owned infrastructure.

The Science for Puerto Rico brigade will also join Güakiá Colectivo Agroecológico and El Hormiguero in their ongoing work to develop sustainable agriculture and sustainable energy infrastructure, respectively.

Beyond assisting current projects, Science for Puerto Rico will expand our network through participation in meetings with members of the community, local organizations, and international climate justice groups. The brigade will also conduct interviews and dedicated political education events to learn from Puerto Rican community members and activists and find areas where we can continue to contribute beyond our initial July brigade. While we express our solidarity through volunteering, we are also working to expand a sociopolitical analysis of the causes and consequences of the disaster in Puerto Rico.

 

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Interested in joining the brigade or learning more? Email SfPRManagement@googlegroups.com or Bolivar Aponte-Rolon.

Learn more about the situation in Puerto Rico in Naomi Klein’s article in The Intercept. All royalties from sales of her book, The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists, go to the alliance JunteGente.

There are many local organizations in Puerto Rico that need financial support. Consider donating to Güakiá Colectivo Agroecológico.

The Science for Puerto Rico brigade is possible because volunteers are covering their own airfare and food. You can support Science for the People’s direct action, volunteering, and organizing costs by becoming a patron for just $5 a month.

This Monday, June 25, 3-4 p.m. EDT, join Science for the People and other radical and progressive scientists and activists during the #ScienceRising Twitter Chat: Science Should Support Equity and Justice.

Stay tuned for more updates from Science for Puerto Rico on this site and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Rallying for Science in Atlanta

The following two speeches were presented by members of Science for the People’s Atlanta chapter, Lauren Wiggins and Rebekah Ward, at their local March for Science on April 14, 2018. Click here to see photos and read reports on Science for the People organizing at the March for Science in the U.S. and Mexico.

Lauren Wiggins:

Good Afternoon! My name is Lauren, and I am here representing the Atlanta Chapter of Science for the People at the 2018 Rally for Science and I’m excited to be here with you all today! And today I’m going to talk about climate change, big business, and social justice.

Lauren Wiggins

My first introduction to climate change was in 2014. I was an intern for Greenpeace–you may have heard of it. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the influence they’d had on society since the 1970s, nor was I aware of their current status as the largest global environmental organization. Truth be told, I’d just heard of the idea of climate change a few months prior to getting the internship. I’d heard of climate change from a friend in my junior year of college. I read a few articles, joined a sustainability group, and attended a conference or two on climate science and activism, and at that point I really thought I’d found my passion…but while I was interning at the Greenpeace USA headquarters, I stumbled upon an article about people who are trafficked into forced labor in the fishing industry. I was absolutely blown away, and wondered why this aspect of sustainability wasn’t more widely publicized along with the “save the whales” marketing Greenpeace had used for decades.

But I’m not here to talk about what lead me to my passion, I’m here to open your minds to what wasn’t taught to me as a school-aged child: climate change and social responsibility.

Most of us here have heard plenty about the environmental movement. We all support it and I’m sure I don’t need to stand here and convince you all that climate change is real, but what I will do is convince you that there’s a neglected narrative in the green movement. While we focus on campaigns to save the polar bears, the Sumatran tigers, the green sea turtles and other species that are undoubtedly worth saving: We often leave the most under-resourced and marginalized communities behind in this movement. It always baffles me to see large environmental campaigns driven by the concern of species far outside our own, but when we think about the human beings–you know, our neighbors, our community members, those who look like and reflect us–who in this instance, live less than ten miles from us, we often have no remorse for their circumstances or surroundings, or concern for their well-being.

In the midst of these changes in climate, the world often forgets to acknowledge that those who are producing most of the pollutants that are harmful to our health and our atmosphere are those farthest away from enduring the consequences of climate change. I cannot stress enough that the poor, and people of color, have always been and will continue to be the first affected and worst affected by natural disasters that are fueled by climate change. An example of this has been widely noted with Hurricane Katrina, a tragedy that displaced almost half a million people. I must emphasize that there are powers who are benefitting from these natural disasters. Naomi Klein, a Canadian journalist, author, and social activist, termed this consequence perfectly as “disaster capitalism.” She says, “some stockpile canned goods and water in preparation for major disasters, [while others] stockpile free-market ideas,” such as privatizing public services and corporate buyouts of low-income housing.

So those of us here probably aren’t looking for the next opportunity to build a beachside resort the next time a typhoon hits (which, by the way, is what happened in the Philippines following the Typhoon Haiyan disaster–and if you’ve been following the news, a similar cycle of exploitation is happening in Puerto Rico), but do consider this: When another natural disaster hits our world, the people who possess the means to do so will simply evacuate and reconstruct it without concern for those whose lives have been uprooted and whose families have been torn apart. However, the communities that were disenfranchised way before a disaster comes along will not have that option, and there are capitalists who bank on that occurrence (pun intended).

In one of my favorite books, Warriors of the Rainbow: A Chronicle of the Greenpeace Movement, author Robert Hunter writes, “A small group of people, acting imaginatively and nonviolently, can affect the course of events in our global village.” And this is true! Small groups are the seed of any movement! And if that small group is determined to change society to everyone’s benefit, it can make the largest impact!

I am an activist by trade, and by recreation. I volunteer with a group called Science for the People. We’re a group of scientists who, in 1969, were key in debunking the myths surrounding race and genes. Well-known figures like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin started our organization! Our pamphlet’s title, “The Dual Nature of Science,” which you can find at our booth is inspired by yet another influential scientist, Richard Levins.

We are revamping Science for the People now, in the 21st century, because we believe that Science IS for the People, not for profit! We believe that Science IS for the People, not for war! We work on demilitarizing science, we work on making science accessible, and we work with communities because science is key for policy-making and transparency!

Science for the People works with the Atlanta community to make sure that our city is fueled by 100% clean energy, as the city council has promised in their recent resolution. Our vision for a 100% clean city, and ultimately a carbon-neutral world, is where clean energy develops alongside increased equity. So I urge you all to join us or join another organization that actively helps with this ambitious plan that can make our future more equitable, more sustainable, and more harmonious!

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “it really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”

My life’s work is centered around justice for the environment and primarily the marginalized communities that have been oppressed, exploited, and constantly overlooked by the structures that, if they chose to, could “save” these communities. But I’ve come to a powerful realization in my years of organizing: we can’t wait around for anything to save us. One of my favorite idioms is, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” To be clear, I don’t intend to save the world by myself, nor would I suggest that the task be taken on by a single organization, because history has shown us that no movement reaches success by uniform assembly, but rather a diverse collective of shared power and respected values. We have to work alongside our communities, and at the same time, provide them with the tools and support to liberate themselves, as Science for the People is poised to do in this nation and eventually around the world.

After my first Black Lives Matter action and other environmental justice engagements at the United Nations climate talks, I declared to myself–and now to all of you–that I would spark a fire in each person I have the pleasure of meeting; so I want to spark the fire of empowerment in you, and you, and you…I want you all to join a movement and uplift a cause that is outside of yourself, your culture, and your upbringing. Like I said earlier, we all share this earth, and each of you in this audience possesses an invincible power to change the way humans live in it and among each other.

Thanks for listening, y’all.


Rebekah Ward:

There is a context to the current attack on science, and science education specifically. The first year Congress actually made specific appropriations for science education was 1958, one year after Sputnik was launched. What’s of note here is that it took the Cold War to motivate our government to take science education seriously. Previously, and historically, science had been the domain of the few and privileged. But that began to change during the 1960s and ‘70s as quality science education became much more accessible and new fields opened up prospects of quality jobs. Then, in the 1990s, the U.S. responded to changes in the global economy by moving toward neoliberalism. Briefly defined, this is a structural readjustment in funding that moves toward privatization of public services in order to bolster the free market. Here’s where you begin to see the push to change the nature of education. In grades K through 12, funding was cut and charters and vouchers were incentivized. In the academy, fewer secure well-paying tenure track positions were available. The academy moved toward adjuncts to bear the teaching load and post-doctoral fellows to crank out data. This data was then used to get grants that could pay for the staff that was needed to get more grants.

Rebekah Ward

Fast forward to the 2008 crisis. Governments of the world bailed out the banks, and the source of that money came from the social safety net. Funding for things like unemployment, infrastructure, and education were all cut. This was austerity, and it only accelerated the attacks on quality public education. According to the American Association of University Professors, the share of adjuncts teaching across higher ed has increased 66 percent in the past four decades. Adjuncts now make up 40 percent of the academic labor force at institutions surveyed, more than all other types of faculty combined. This majority of the academic labor force makes an average of around $20,000 a year. This is one of the ways that universities have coped with historic decreases in funding: a supplementary low wage labor force. And K-12 is even worse. The teacher pay penalty is bigger than ever. In 1994, public school teachers’ weekly wages were 1.8 percent lower than those of comparable workers; now it is approaching 20% lower than other workers. Education, including most types of science education, has been systematically devalued.

Locally, we see this play out in the University System of Georgia in several ways. State funding for public two- and four-year colleges is, nation wide, nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation. These kinds of cuts increase tuition, impact the Hope education tax credit, increase the adjunct to tenure track ratio, and decrease the support staff for students. This trend underlies the recent mergers between campuses. Georgia Perimeter and Georgia State University, along with many other physically proximal colleges and universities in the state, were combined into a single institution. Part of the stated purpose was to “reduce redundancy.” Why have two Human Resources departments, two Financial Aid departments, when you could have one that works twice as hard? Also, there are examples of science faculty in particular, who have been subject to paying for the underfunding of the USG.

At one local college, faculty who teach labs have recently been informed that they must teach an additional class next year for no additional pay. This amounts to around a 20% wage cut. In the labor movement, this is sometimes called a speed up. This allows the institution to hire fewer adjuncts without reducing incoming tuition. The trend is clear: education in general, and science education, with its equipment and reagents costs, in particular, are a target for the ongoing budget cuts.


Science for the People relies on donations to fuel our activism.
You can help support Science for the People’s mission and the relaunch of our publication in the coming months. Become a Patreon patron today.

The Dual Nature of Science

Why do we “March for Science”? A central impulse is to fight the exercise of power for private gain at the expense of broad interest; oil companies ought not determine the quality of climate science!

However, if we generalize this impulse we risk making science into a neutral counter-power to be deployed merely through Evidence-Based Policy. But defense of science is not enough. We need to transform the role of science in our world.

Science for the People engages with what ecologist Richard Levins called the dual nature of science. That is science as “an episode in the growth of human knowledge in general, and as the class-, gender-, and culture-bound product of Euro-North American capitalism in particular.” Levins noted that two common reactions to the intersection of science and politics, scientism (the ideology that science is always correct and just) and antiscience, fail to grasp this dual nature:

Both scientism and modem antiscience are one-sided. This is not the same as “extreme,” the ultimate reproach of liberal criticism. “Extreme” implies as its preferred opposite “moderate,” a solution with the implication that the truth is a little bit of this and a little bit of that, or “not all black or white, but some shade of grey,” an optimal middle ground defined by the extremes that are rejected.”

Both scientism and antiscience fail to address the real challenges facing scientists, society, and the planet today. A few examples show that a sensitivity to the dual nature of science is the necessary backbone of our movement.

Militarism

Science tends to satisfy capitalism’s need to constantly innovate in the pursuit of profit, and as a result becomes the center of a misleading progressivist ideology. But progress for whom? More than half of American government science funding is channeled through the military. The invasion and occupation of Iraq killed over half a million Iraqis and cost $2.3 trillion. The total budget of the National Institutes of Health over the same period was about $225 billion. The US spent ten times more killing over 500,000 people than it did on research to improve healthcare!

Reproductive Justice

Science is often integrated into profoundly anti-democratic policy. Writing in Science for the People magazine in 1977, Linda Gordon noted that the birth control movement started with an emphasis on women’s liberation, but the entry of doctors and other professionals infused the movement with elitist values such as population control, often due to openly eugenicist views. The fight for reproductive justice continues today. Black women die at a rate four times higher than white women in childbirth and abortion access has been declining for decades. Our movement must not repeat these errors of technocracy and elitism, but must join broad democratic struggles.

Eugenics and Biological Determinism

Too often, scientific acceptance promotes injustice. The Eugenics Movement reached mainstream scientific status in the early 20th century (with many universities hosting Eugenics Departments), justifying tens of thousands of sterilizations of black, poor, and disabled people up through the 1960s.

Ideas that later are deemed reprehensible can exist as accepted science for decades; this happens even today. Eugenics is a cruder version of the general science of biological determinism–the justification of social violence and inequity through their naturalization as biologically inevitable–which is alive and well.

How should scientists organize politically?

The discrediting of biological determinism was the joint victory of the women’s movement, the Black freedom struggle, and the radical science movement. Radical scientists contributed by publicly exposing ideological motivations through careful, sustained, confrontational argument. And the fight continues. So long as structural injustices persist, so too will their naturalization, from Charles Murray’s “color-blind” notion of biological class, to James Damore’s claims that women are underrepresented in tech because they are innately inept.

Science is not an abstraction removed from society. Science is produced by our labor. But the conditions of this production and the use of science are controlled by the wealthy and powerful. We must fight for a science that serves all people, organizing wherever science is produced or applied alongside all those fighting for justice.

Against any tendency to antiscience, we should remember: knowledge is won with our labor and can be used to advance common goals. Against any tendency to scientism: our movement lives and dies with the broader left; technical knowledge alone never delivers justice.


This essay was written by NYC chapter member Conor Dempsey as part of our March for Science organizing. Find more M4S materials here.

Help support Science for the People’s mission and the relaunch of our publication in the coming months. Become a Patreon patron today.

 

March for Science 2018 Organizing Resources

Around the country, Science for the People’s revitalized and growing chapters are organizing to represent a radical, political perspective at the second annual March for Science on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

To help SftP and those looking to join our mission engage with the March on a local and national level, we’ve compiled some materials you can print and share at the March.

RECRUITING  AT THE MARCH
Organizing conversations are more structured than regular conversations. Identify the goal of your organizing and build the conversation around that goal: Are you attempting to get people to join SftP? To disseminate information? To build connections with other scientists who are politically engaged? To politically educate scientists who are engaged but still developing? Build the conversation around the specific thing you are “asking” from the person you’re speaking to.

1. LISTEN!
Introduce yourself, but focus on active listening more than talking.
Why is the person you’re speaking to at March for Science?
What are their interests and concerns?

2. RESPOND!
More than likely, some part of the conversation will resonate with your own interests or with something that SftP is concerned with. That’s the time when you should talk–to offer a perspective that complements or pushes forward what the other person is expressing.

3. KEEP TRACK!
Sign people up for something and give them a way to engage with you or the group in the future. Newsletter subscription is ideal; SftP is also on Twitter and Facebook.

PAMPHLET
Looking to recruit new members to your local chapter? Print out copies of the new Science for the People pamphlet, “The Dual Nature of Science,” to hand out at the March.
For print
For displaying online

You can also read the essay here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESOLUTION
SftP members brought forward a resolution to frame Science for the People’s participation in the march.  Read it here.

NEWSLETTER SIGNUPS
Print and use this form to stay in touch with new contacts.

CHANTS
Need a rallying cry? Learn and share these chants!

Science for the people, not for profit
Science for the people, not for war

BANNERS AND POSTERS
Download, print, or paint your SftP banner using these designs from NYC chapter member Matteo Farinella.

 

CHAPTER REPORTS
Please share your chapter’s participation for the March for Science! Are you recruiting new members? Raising awareness of a certain issue? What do you think is crucial for SftP to organize around? Tell us your thoughts in this quick form.

Tweet and share your experience at the March for Science and use the hashtag #ScienceForThePeople.

 

Which Way for Science?

by the Science for the People editorial team

On April 22, 2017, the March for Science will pull several thousands of people into the streets to stand up for science and resist funding cuts proposed by the current US administration. Our organization, Science for the People, sees this development as a mostly positive step in the right direction. The scale of the political and economic crises facing people across the world is enormous and will require mass movements to resist and organize for change. However, we believe there is a need to advance radical solutions to face these crises. As such we have been interested in how the March for Science has developed since its inception around January 25, 2017. Our members have been taking measured approaches to engaging with the March for Science–nationally and locally–with the overall goal of putting forward a politics capable of both taking seriously the multitude of contradictions that define scientific enterprise and accounting for the people affected by and disaffected with the pursuit, uses, and abuses of science.

For radicals and revolutionaries, unearthing and addressing the burning questions of the latent social movement for science is an urgent and primary task:

  • What’s happening to U.S. Science?
  • Who will March for Science? Who will not?
  • What is Science for the People?

What’s Happening to US Science?

Supporting science as a national priority has fallen out of favor with the powers that be, to say the least. The new administration has made it perfectly clear that it intends to incapacitate the agencies and programs that make science happen every day in America–or at least those with missions orthogonal to developing U.S. military or resource extraction technologies. Their budget calls for the evisceration of the Environmental Protection Agency, a double decimation and reorganization for the National Institutes of Health, annihilation of various Department of Energy advanced research programs dedicated to renewable energy and climate, and more. While none of this is set in stone yet, as the budget must pass through the US House and Senate, it remains to be seen just how much the legislature will dispose of what the president proposes. Either way, by a few major lacerations or a thousand tiny cuts, U.S. science is likely to lose a lot of blood.

For mainstream commentators, the the primary victim is US leadership in research, as they see these attacks as tarnishing America‘s reputation for innovation and compromising national security. Concordantly, the tears of patriotism shed for the coming loss of America’s scientific hegemony come with a blurry vision for change: perhaps Congressional bipartisanship and compromise will save us all?

As bad as the current situation is, it’s worth remembering that funding woes for U.S. science are not new. Despite help from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the past near-decade of U.S. fiscal policy shows science losing out in the budgetary fights between the Obama administration’s ambitions for science and the GOP-controlled House of Representatives’ preference for imposing across-the-board austerity. Biomedical research institutions and their workforce have experienced much of the damage, with cuts and inflationary pressure on federal nondefense science and technology spending. It’s not just federal austerity bringing down U.S. science, either, as state cutbacks to public research universities have compounded the downward pressure for funding research and for the costs of providing science education, as the increasing costs of the university are passed on to the students as tuition.

None of this is intended to diminish the gravity of the current situation, but we should understand that what is happening is an increase in the rate of change on the same trajectory. This should prime us to be critical of establishment science organizations claiming to be vehicles of resistance to the current attacks on science. If the strategies and tactics of establishment science organizations were not able to secure the foothold for U.S. science during an administration that has been characterized as being the most friendly to science on record, how are we to expect that they will work under a regime that is decidedly oppositional to science and scientists? Ruthless criticism of the capacity of establishment organizations to make change from science workers themselves is necessary if we wish to move beyond the current, stultifying paradigm of lobbying and “science communications” as being the only legitimate mode of political organizing for science. Neither perfectly crafted explanations of climate change nor new science-friendly PACs offer a way for science to move beyond its designated but diminished roles within increasingly dysfunctional U.S. federal and state governments, into a form that realizes its radical potential to catalyze transformative social and political change.

Which brings us back to the March for Science, its significance in this political moment, the entanglement of reformist and radical forces within the march, and the need for both progressive and radical scientists to strategize about moving forward after the march is over.

Who will March for Science? Who will not?

When the March for Science was announced in late January, the spontaneity and resonance of the call to action was palpable, as tens of thousands of people hopped into social media groups clamoring for details about the march and how they could get involved. No doubt, the magnitude of the organizing task–bringing together potentially hundreds of thousands of people in just over a month’s time to march on Washington, D.C. (the original event was supposed to take place in March)–proved too much for the group of initiators. Soon thereafter, a network of coordinators and communicators tapped into the digital infrastructure to take over the reins for organizing the march. The opacity of the internal organizing processes and leadership structure of the march makes it difficult to assess exactly how the current organizing committee came together. Representatives of the organizing committee have made several thoughtless remarks and strategic missteps that have induced negative feedback toward the organizers, leading to rolling revisions to the statements of principles and recomposition of the organizing body.

Scientists and activists have engaged in heated debate and varied discussions about the March for Science on Facebook and Twitter, stemming from claims by the march’s organizers that the march would be apolitical, nonpartisan, and separate from “identity politics.” For instance, in Memphis, the latest version of the March for Science Diversity and Inclusion Principles caused a split between organizers willing to uphold these principles, and those that were not. “This isn’t about scientists. It’s about science,” claims co-chair and science writer Dr. Caroline Weinberg, a stance March for Science has since changed. Science is inherently political. What is studied, to what end, by whom and under what conditions, are all political questions integral to the very nature of science. By denying this fact, we risk erasing the struggle of scientists of color, women, disabled scientists, and scientists from the LGBTQ community who have had to fight for education, credibility, funding, and job opportunities within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Concordantly, we risk ignoring and diminishing the struggles of scientists who have resisted the use of science for making war, exploitation of workers, the enabling of environmentally destructive resource extraction, and the support of industries that harm people and the planet.

The slow acknowledgement of the political nature of science and the marginalization and exclusion of underrepresented groups from the March for Science, especially scientists of color, unleashed a Twitter storm in the three months leading up to the march. Underrepresented scientists expressed concern about the lack of diversity in the leadership of the March for Science, intersectionality, the hesitancy to reach out to other activist groups (e.g., Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL, Women’s March), the need for a diversity statement, and accessibility issues. Dr. Stephani Page, a biochemist/biophysicist and creator of #BLACKandSTEM, spearheaded a discussion on diversity on Twitter with the hashtag #marginsci. This thread has helped force the March for Science to reflect on and reconsider their approach to organizing the march. Thanks to #marginsci, the March for Science diversity statement has been through several revisions. The March for Science organizers have also more recently created an anti-harassment policy (due to several racist, sexist, ableist, and homophobic incidents online) and recruited a few scientists of color to assist with the march.

These various stumblings reveal the ugly, longstanding problem with diversity and inclusion in STEM. According to sociologist Dr. Zuleyka Zevallos, who has been following and reporting the actions and discourse of the March for Science, organizers have even perpetuated sexist and racist stereotypes of passivity and potential for violence, respectively, in promoting the march. Female scientists of color have been trolled (i.e., harassed online) for their comments by White and primarily male peers in the science community. In response to #marginsci, the organizers announced two female scientists of color, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Dr. Lydia Villa-Komaroff, as spokespeople for the march. According to critics, the addition of these women seems to be an afterthought to the organizers, who had early on slated celebrity scientist Bill Nye as a march co-chair. Dr. Stephani Page responded to the announcement by stating that despite the fact that she loves Nye, she still thinks that he reinforces the White, male narrative in science. “He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist,” Page tells Buzzfeed.

We applaud the efforts of activists like Page to push the March for Science to take such steps and consider it their victory that the organizers were made to respond. As of the writing of this statement, it is unknowable how many scientists of color or other individuals from underrepresented groups plan to attend or stay home during the March for Science. But it is clear that many people from marginalized and oppressed communities have been turned off by the messaging and the lack of acknowledgement of their historic struggles within STEM. This negation both whitewashes the impact of science in enabling the oppression and marginalization of these communities, and ignores the contributions of scientists from these communities. For many marginalized scientists, the March for Science appears to be centering the concerns of those who are overrepresented in STEM by focusing on issues of funding and shifting research priorities as the dominant themes of the march, while subsuming the experiences of marginalized scientists to statements of diversity, rather than creating parity for issues that are just as important and longstanding as funding. The attempts made by the organizers of the March for Science to downplay the deeply political nature of contemporary science risk making it a symbolic representation of objectivity and “science for all,” a unifying rallying cry to fight against the “attack on science.” Such failures do not address the systemic racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and classism that still plagues the science community and society more broadly. These are not simply problems of individual morality but rather are complex structural problems and must be addressed as such through organization and demands beyond the calls for objective or diverse science.

In this moment, it is vital that we question who the scientific establishment benefits, oppresses, excludes, and ignores. How can science be more inclusive and equitable to people who identify as being disabled, LGBTQ, of color, and/or female-identifying? How can we enhance science access to local disenfranchised communities (e.g., indigenous, low-income, Black, Latinx) and how can we work with and for those communities? How can science serve humanity and the planet? Is it possible for scientists who desire meaningful social change in our society to put their talents to work for a movement capable of achieving that change, or must “politics” remain split off from their work? Can we ensure the use of evidence-based, ethical decision-making in public policy? As the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) fight have shown us, now is not the time for scientists to sit on the sidelines, claim neutrality or objectivity, and remain silent. Silence amounts to acceptance of the status quo, which could mean life or death for people and the planet.

What is Science for the People?

It is impossible to escape the political implications of scientific work. Particularly since the Sputnik era, the American ruling class–primarily characterized by upper-class, educated, wealthy Whites–has long had a commitment to science based on the belief that science is good for the long-term welfare of American capitalism, exemplified by the rhetoric around the potential STEM workforce shortage and the imperative that the U.S. should reclaim its rightful place as the top nation in STEM. This outlook is shared by the trustees of universities, leading U.S. scientists in the National Academies, government administrators, and private funding agencies. They see this viewpoint as representing a mature social responsibility that is morally superior to the “pure search for truth” attitudes of some scientists, who are tolerated as long as they don’t impede or challenge these economistic aims. With the reemergence of the use of biological concepts of race in genomics research and climate change denial, persistent environmental racism (environmental disasters that disproportionately affect communities of color and low-income residents, like the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and fracking in North Dakota and California), major racial, class, and national health disparities, the role of scientists and science in society needs to be reexamined. Dr. Marc Edward’s, in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education about his and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s investigation that revealed the deliberate inaction of the city and state government to address the lead contamination of Flint’s water supply, shared:

I am very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty. The pressures to get funding are just extraordinary. We’re all on this hedonistic treadmill—pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index—and the idea of science as a public good is being lost. [emphasis added]

Like Edwards, if the scientific community believes that science truly is a public good, then more scientists need to speak out, organize, and engage, for themselves, with, and for all marginalized and oppressed people. As a society, we need to use science to serve the people, not to turn profits or support private interests. Traditional attempts to reform scientific activity through professional societies and conferences, to disentangle it from its more malevolent and vicious applications, have failed. Actions designed to preserve the moral integrity of individuals without addressing how the institutions of science and the power they embody are complicit in systems of domination have been ineffective. What is needed now is not liberal reform or withdrawal, but a radical shift in the practice of science. Scientific workers must organize amongst themselves and as part of broader struggles to envision and achieve a liberatory science. This will require close attention to the changing nature of scientific work itself. For instance, young scientists, who are increasingly unable to find permanent employment as scientists, especially in the academy with its supposed offer of intellectual independence, will have difficulty changing science in a purely individualist manner.

The March for Science nationally and others globally who have been politically energized by the current state of affairs can learn from the history of radical politics in science. Courageous scientists throughout history have taken on social and political issues above and beyond their disciplinary “expertise.” Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Lewontin, Richard Levins, Jon Beckwith, Stephen Jay Gould, Ruth Hubbard, Hilary Rose, Steven Rose, Christopher Caudwell, Helen Rodriguez-Trias, Connie Redbird Uri, and antebellum scientists of color like James McCune Smith and Martin Delany, are all examples of scientists whose lives, science, and activism were propelled by the understanding that science is deeply political. In the 1970s, radical socialist science movements like Science for the People in the U.S. and British Society for Social Responsibility in Science in the U.K. enabled a renaissance for socially conscious, politically radical critiques and analyses of the entanglement of science with U.S. imperialism and global capitalism. At the 1970 meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science, members of Scientists and Engineers for Social and Political Action (a precursor to Science for the People) publicly disrupted a keynote by Glenn Seaborg, then Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, and indicted him for both his role in aiding the development of nuclear weapons and “establishing, organizing, maintaining, and developing institutions of science and government for the effective use of the ruling class.” In the early 1970s, Science for the People’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP), designed to aid radical groups with technical needs, helped free medical clinics hosted by the Chicago Black Panther Party break into city electrical power grids to provide free power for the clinics. Journalists for the Science for the People magazine worked to document the negative consequences of environmental exploitation on local populations and the movements of citizens to protect the land against energy and mining corporations (see Kelly Moore’s Disrupting Science and the forthcoming book on SftP for more history). They demonstrated that such environmental catastrophes could not be undone by science alone, but required scientists to unite with citizens organizing for their communities against powerful corporations and lackadaisical regulatory agencies. Yet with the deradicalization of academia and lack of history within science education curriculum, many scientists are unaware of this history, as evidenced by the national March for Science’s blundering statements concerning politics and science.

By reorganizing Science for the People, we aim to revitalize its legacy of documenting the use and abuse of science and to organize scientists to contribute to human liberation and transformative social change. As a coalition of progressive and radical science workers and supporters, Science for the People finds the alternatives of “science for science’s sake” and “science for the progress of capitalism” equally unacceptable. We can no longer stand by as science is used as a means to promote a neoliberal, capitalist agenda that objectifies individuals and communities in pursuit of exploitative and imperialist goals. We also cannot simply engage in scientific pursuits without questioning who the research serves and impacts, how science is directly or indirectly complicit in oppression, and how we can make our work accessible and meaningful to everyone. To uncritically assume that science is progressive is to leave the tools of science in the hands of the powerful. We need to think about scientific work differently: what would science look like if it were with and for the people?

Science for the People must be organized through a grassroots effort that is intersectional, inclusive, democratic, and accessible from its inception. We must be cognizant of how individual experiences of science are shaped by race, gender, class, nationality, and so on and how this, in turn, shapes the questions, assumptions, approaches, and social interactions in science. Rather than hiding behind the pretense of an “apolitical science,” we should acknowledge, reveal, critique, and contest the ways in which power and privilege manifest within the scientific community, scientific practice, and society. Scientists, science educators, science communicators, advocates, and community members should share “ownership” of the movement while elevating and centering the voices of the marginalized and oppressed. This is especially vital if the scientific community intends to (re)establish trust with communities that have often been harmed and traumatized by scientists and scientific research (e.g., indigenous, Black, Latinx, disabled, LGBTQ). We should be inspired by the work of those scientist-activists who have been and continue to engage the scientific community and society in difficult conversations around science, power, privilege, and oppression, such as Dr. Danielle N. Lee, Dr. Jedidah Isler, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein and the Scientists Against Fascism, Dr. Raychelle Burks, Dr. Caleph Wilson, Dr. Marc Edwards, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Free Radicals.

Anything called Science for the People must directly serve marginalized, exploited, and oppressed persons and strengthen their ability to participate in struggles and achieve liberation for all. Doing this radical political work requires forging connections to community and political organizations where scientific analysis and technical prowess can provide aid in struggle, addressing the “undone science” that has yet to be completed. To accomplish this, it will be necessary to establish within Science for the People a network of scientists organized and capable of collaborating on projects brought forth by social and political organizations seeking assistance and take seriously the process of learning from criticisms and suggestions by others. It also calls for the (re)learning of the history of science with a focus on hidden or untold stories and the creation of decolonized science.

Additionally, we must foster resistance to doing science that can be used as weapons against the people, either in the natural or social sciences, or that aids in the efficiency of the capitalist system to exploit people and the planet for profit. The time has come for a revitalized Science for the People. STEM workers must redirect their capacity away from serving reactionary forces and institutions that uphold the current system, and towards work that saves the planet and serves the people.

The March for Science this weekend is the exciting first step of what we hope will become a mass movement to both defend the necessity of science and to build science that works for all people. We have an opportunity to raise the issues we have discussed with our colleagues and community members while there is heightened visibility and momentum around the power of science to unite and change our world. We present both enthusiasm for and criticism of the March for Science in the spirit of solidarity and construction. As scientists and those who deem science valuable mobilize this weekend we have a chance to think deeply and critically about the root of issues in science research, funding, and impact. Science has the potential to be a force of liberation but is frequently complicit in systems of domination. Let us join with all those engaged in liberatory struggles to build a world where all science is Science for the People.