More than 3,000 scientists and STEM professionals have expressed interest in running for office as a reaction to the Donald Trump presidency, according to a nonprofit group hoping to get more scientific-minded people into politics.
In January, 314 Action (named after the first three digits of the number pi) announced that it would be training scientists to run for office as Democrats at all levels of politics in hopes that these new politicians could bring a fact-based approach to crises such as climate change.
At the time, 314 Action was hoping to hold a one-hour webinar to talk the potential candidates through the basics of forming a campaign organization, raising money, and communicating their platform.
"The goal is not to politicize science, but to get scientists involved in politics"
The group set up an online questionnaire asking scientists for some biographical information as well as their specific interest in running for office; so far, more than 3,000 scientists have signed up.
Because of the overwhelming interest, the organization will now be holding an all-day seminar on March 14 in Washington DC featuring training sessions with experienced politicians and organizers. The group expects between 100 and 200 potential candidates to travel to DC for the event, which will be live streamed to those who can't make it.
"It's 3,000 scientists and STEM professionals—engineers, mathematicians, academics," 314 Action spokesperson Ted Bordelon told me. "It's a combination."
Speakers at the seminar will include Joe Trippi, who helped run Howard Dean's presidential campaign and has worked for California Gov. Jerry Brown. Other speakers include is Melissa Varga, who has previously trained new political candidates for the New Organizing Institute, a now-defunct think tank that promoted first-time progressive candidates and Andrew Zwicker, a physicist who became a New Jersey state lawmaker.
Bordelon said the group can't yet know how many scientists will actually run for office, but said the early support and interest has far exceeded the group's expectations. After the seminar, 314 Action will continue to provide support and advice for scientists running for office, in a similar vein to nonprofits that help women, minorities, and veterans become politicians.
In recent weeks there has been an ongoing debate about the role scientists should play in politics. In the past, many scientists attempted to distance themselves from politics, but the inauguration of a president who has surrounded himself with an anti-science cabinet that debates the role humans have played in climate change has led to robust and nearly uniform rejection from the science community. A March for Science protest in Washington DC has been planned for March 22, which is Earth Day. And at last weekend's American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, a protest of Trump's policies broke out on Boston's streets.
"The goal is not to politicize science, but to get scientists involved in politics," Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist, former congressional candidate, and board president of 314 Action, told me last month. "When the man who's going to lead this country claims climate change is a hoax, we need people willing to stand up for the facts."