Summer 2020. A seemingly innocuous phrase unless you happen to be living through it. All of us know the tribulations: a spike of COVID-19 cases, civil unrest due to racism embedded in our culture, wildfires and hurricanes running rampant across the country and an increasingly decaying political landscape where scientists are pushed out of the policymaking process, be they assisting with the global pandemic or the climate crisis. My outlook on the future was becoming increasingly dreary. Luckily, we are lifted up by those who can see the light in dark times.
Rather than giving in to dejection, my friend and colleague, Bernat Navarro Serer, was inspired into action by this turmoil. One Saturday night in mid-July, he put together a proposal for the student organization we lead, the Johns Hopkins Science Policy Group (JHSPG), to unite the Johns Hopkins community in support of science prior to the 2020 election. The JHSPG has been growing since its inception in 2016, but our campus recognition is still relatively low. Bernat envisioned the JHSPG becoming a hub where all Johns Hopkins students and affiliates are empowered to educate, debate and advocate for science in the policymaking process, and the 2020 election is our moment to make this vision a reality.
Thus began our initiative: STEMulate the Vote! Alarmed by data showing that STEM majors are less likely to vote than other majors, we wanted to create content to educate fellow STEM students and professionals about the integral relationship among science, policy and politics, and motivate them to become more civically engaged. Additionally, we aimed to raise awareness about local, state and federal elections, and further foster discussion about science issues on the ballot, highlighting each candidate’s stance on scientific topics. In this age of physical distancing, we decided to spread our messages through social media, Op-Eds and virtual seminars. Luckily, the JHSPG is not alone in this mission, and we have been fortunate to partner with professional organizations such as the National Science Policy Network, Science Rising, Science Debate and Research!America to help elevate our message and provide logistical support.
So far, we have been thrilled to see that STEMulate the Vote! has attracted volunteers from many Johns Hopkins schools, many of them citing the “state of the world” as their motivation for joining. We are still in the early stages, but our reach is already growing. We have connected with other student organizations at Johns Hopkins and at other universities across Maryland that are interested in sharing our messages. We are hopeful that this network will continue to expand and will grow to be as inclusive as possible. Now, looking at the future, I am slightly more hopeful, thanks to the inspirational work ethic and creativity of our STEMulate the Vote! volunteers. Together, united in science, I am grateful that my Johns Hopkins and STEM community has inspired me to act to help work toward a brighter future for science.
- STEM Students: “Doc” the Vote!
- Don’t Be Fooled: Science Is Political
- When Doing Science Isn’t Enough: Critical Issues in Science Policy
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