Nonprofit hopes to bring science back to politics

The pandemic has brought to light several worrying qualities of US policy: the first being that lawmakers appeared to have grossly underestimated the severity of the virus. Second, a significant percentage of the population has little understanding of science and has elected officials who share their paranoia and reject evidence-based decisions. These key factors are why the nonprofit political committee titled 314 Share, which has field offices in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, seeks to change who we elect as policy makers, radio hosts and candidates with little or no scientific training in scientists and engineers.

Founded by Naughton Shaughnessy, the organization seeks to bring more candidates with a background in STEM into the national discussion. “Out of sheer frustration with what was going on, I decided to go to Congress knowing what I was getting into. And part of what I learned was that at the time there were more radio hosts in Congress than scientists and engineers, ”Shaughnessy said. His organization not only seeks to fund campaigns for candidates with a STEM background, but also wants to serve as an outreach to encourage more scientists to participate in the electoral system.

So what is the group’s connection to New Mexico? “I founded 314 Action to encourage more scientists and stem professionals to go beyond advocacy and actually get involved in electoral politics,” Shaughnessy said. According to Shaugnessy, 314 Action worked with Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, both of whom have openly declared their faith in political decisions based on science rather than religious beliefs. The organization was also the first national nonprofit to commit to supporting Melanie Stansbury’s congressional campaign.

314 Action has a long relationship with New Mexico politicians in a historically Democratic stronghold. The focus on these candidates goes far beyond party lines; it is about planning for the long term and approaching politics from a sustainable perspective. Shaughnessy noted that the organization has a long relationship with Senior Senator Martin Heinrich due to his experience as an engineer.

“There’s no issue that wouldn’t benefit from having more data-driven, analytical minded people in Congress. Whether it’s climate change or healthcare, but also thinking about cybersecurity, election security or urban planning, ”noted Shaughnessy.

When asked why there weren’t more scientists on duty, Shaughnessy pointed out STEM’s historic indifference to politics. “Traditionally, the culture among scientists thinks science is above politics, and therefore scientists shouldn’t be involved in politics,” Shaughnessy said.

The lack of scientific contribution to political decisions has had a detrimental effect on the state of our country. This can be best observed by the political polarization around the pandemic, climate change and resource extractions across the country. “We are giving a real boost to state and local offices over the long term. What we really want to encourage is for scientists and doctors to commit to attending school board or city council meetings once or twice a year and giving their opinion, because I think that will encourage more as well. people to show up, ”Shaughnessy said.

“The only way we can really fight this is to stop electing people who ignore science and expertise. But also to claim a seat at the table and to get more scientists as policy makers and legislators, and not just as advisers who can just be ignored when boring, ”Shaughnessy said.

Justin schatz

Justin Schatz is the daily reporter for The Paper. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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