VisaThe American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is calling on U.S. President Donald Trump to work with the world’s largest scientific organization to ensure the free flow of scientific talent from around the world.

The latest response from AAAS comes just after President Trump’s executive order limiting immigration and travel from seven countries in the Middle East. AAAS’s CEO, Rush Holt, issued a statement emphasizing the need to keep U.S. borders open to scientists and students from around the world.

“Scientific progress depends on openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas. The United States has always attracted and benefited from international scientific talent because of these principles,” Holt said in the release. “We know that fostering safe and responsible conduct of research is essential for scientific advancement, national prosperity, and international security. Therefore, the detaining of students and scientists that have already been screened, processed, and approved to receive a visa to visit the United States is contrary to the spirit of science to pursue scholarly and professional interests. In order for science and the economy to prosper, students and scientists must be free to study and work with colleagues in other countries.”

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STEMA new initiative that goes by the name, STEM the Divide, is looking to bring scientists out of the lab and into public office.

STEM the Divide is founded by the nonprofit 314 Action group (homage to Pi), which is focused on building a community for those in STEM and bridging the gap between scientists and public policy. The group’s main goals include: strengthening communications between the scientific community and public officials, providing a voice for the STEM community on social issues, and increasing STEM engagement in the media.

As a branch of 314 Action, STEM the Divide is dedicated to electing more STEM-educated leaders to the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive, and Legislative offices.

“There’s nothing in our Constitution that says we can only be governed by attorneys,” Shaughnessy Naughton, founder of STEM the Divide, tells The Washington Post. “Especially now, we need people with scientific backgrounds that are used to looking at the facts and forming an opinion based on the facts.”

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By: John Besley, Michigan State University

imageEarlier this fall, the nonpartisan nonprofit ScienceDebate.org released Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s responses to a set of questions about science policy. Shortly after, a group of 375 scientists wrote an open letter focused specifically on the United States honoring commitments around climate change. Seventy Nobel laureates then penned a more general Clinton endorsement; President Obama had garnered similar numbers of Nobel winners’ support in the previous election cycles.

As someone who both studies science communication and thinks of himself as a part of the scientific community, I applaud scientists’ desire to engage with our broader society. The scientific community has substantial expertise to share and a responsibility to share it.

On the other hand, I worry that doing things like asking candidates to weigh in on scientific questions in the context of a “debate” may have unintended consequences that need to be thought through as a community.

None of the below should be taken as a rebuke. Rather, the point is to honestly consider whether the scientific community is making strategic communication choices when it comes to this election. Poor choices could give the dangerous impression that scientific questions can be debated like policy choices – while also cutting into the public’s overall trust in science.

What happens when scientists engage politically

I’m very hesitant to suggest that scientists bite their tongues about things such as the threat of a political candidate who doesn’t believe in climate change. But I also worry that the scientific community’s tendency to respond to many Republicans’ unhelpful views about science policy with continued feigned surprise, and occasional derision, might have negative consequences for the continued strong place of science in society.

As might have been predicted, the ScienceDebate.org efforts, for example, showed that one of the major party candidates has limited interest in reassuring the scientific community that its views are respected. The climate change open letter similarly reiterates that our best scientists know the Republican candidate for president doesn’t care what they think and find it (understandably) disheartening.

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is making his voice heard in the quest for open access of vital scientific research.

After losing his son to cancer in May of 2015, Biden has been on a mission to accelerate cancer research in search of a cure. In order to make those leaps and bounds in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, Biden is now pushing for an open access database to gain better understanding of the disease and advance innovation.

According to The Washington Post, Biden stated that the path toward breakthroughs relies upon increasing the number of researchers who can access data.

While the scope of ECS’s science may be different, our mission to accelerate innovation and open access to our research is the same.

ECS’s Free the Science initiative aims to make all of the research in our Digital Library free to publish and free to read – freeing the science for everyone.

Instead of putting money into the publishing industry, Free the Science is investing in research – allowing scientists to share their work with readers around the world and attracting more minds to think about how to solve some of our planet’s most pressing problems.

Learn more about Free the Science.

In early December of 2015, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) penned what he deemed the “Wastebook” – a report detailing what the senator believes to be wasteful federal spending, specifically targeted at research dollars.

The report took aim at research the fiscal conservative considered a waste of federal cash, including projects he summed up as a “shrimp fight club,” a study of cows in China, an exploration of why obese women can’t get dates, and a look at shrimp on a treadmill.

Earlier this month, those very same scientists that Flake criticized and reduced their research to mere waste took to Pennsylvania Avenue to reinforce the legitimacy of their work.

Researchers respond

“I am rock solid about my research. I know it is very good,” said Sheila Patek, an associate professor of biology at Duke University who led the so-called shrimp fight club study. “But this ‘Wastebook’ targeted a short paper that was the first paper in my young graduate student’s career. He is from a long line of firefighters. His father, his uncle, his grandfather. There aren’t any other scientists in his family. They are very proud of him. He is extremely civic-minded. I don’t think I’ve had anyone in my lab like that. And this has been crushing for him.”

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