It is somewhat of an irony that science has taken a backseat in the mainstream discourse of USA. A major reason behind this is the scientific ignorance of the elected leaders currently in power. They have often grabbed headlines for their blatant denial of critical issues like climate change. Their policies, which violate environmental laws; their irrelevant remarks on scientific matters and lack of patronage for scientific advancement, continue to shudder the very foundation of science in the country.
At the same time, more and more personalities from the scientific community, including researchers, doctors, engineers, teachers have shown a keen interest in joining the political scene in the past few years. But in most cases, their political ambitions are curtailed in the bud due to lack of funds for effective campaigning. That is where 314 Action Fund comes to the rescue. The fund backs electoral candidates from the STEM community (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and proactively runs electoral campaigns for them. In fact, in 2018, eight of their candidates have secured seats in the US Congress, sprouting hopes of encouraging scientific pursuits at the government level.
How did 314 Action Fund come into being
Founder Shaughnessy Naughton is a chemist who decided to pursue politics with the sole aim to secure the future of science in the United States. In 2014, she stood for Congress in Pennsylvania but with no experience of campaign other than knocking on people’s doors, Naughton was unsuccessful. However, the unfailing support from the scientific community made her realise how much the country needed a scientific perspective in politics.
With this aim in mind, she started the 314 Action in 2016 and has successfully placed several STEM candidates in the Congress so far. The curious name for the organisation comes from the value of Pi (3.14) which is the most widely used mathematical ratio.
The biggest victory for 314 Action
Perhaps the greatest victory for science in the USA in recent times happened this year with as many as eight members of the scientific community getting elected with appreciable winning margins, including five women. Needless to say, all of them were bolstered by 314 Action.
Interestingly, aside from individual priority areas, all of these candidates have affordable healthcare and environmental-friendly laws on top of their agenda.
Know the winners
Computer scientist Jacky Rosen from Nevada was elected to the US Senate, fighting against Dean Heller who vehemently denies climate change. Rosen, who also has a degree in psychology, champions the use of renewable energy alongside working on pro-education initiatives like reducing the interest on student loans. With regards to gun violence, she wishes to enforce a ban on assault rifles.
Stanford engineer Chrissy Houlahan, also an Air Force veteran, emerged with the most remarkable win bagging 58.8% votes in Pennsylvania’s 6th district, reported Quartz. Her prime focus happens to be the expansion of affordable healthcare policies.
In Illinois’ 14th district, 32-year-old nurse Lauren Underwood overthrew Randy Hultgren, infamous for his support towards withdrawing from the Paris Climate Deal and repealing of the Affordable Care Act. The young and new politician is a noted advocate of affordable healthcare, reproductive rights for women and renewable energy.
Kim Schrier, a paediatrician with an additional astrophysics degree, won in Washington’s 8th district. Her sole objective behind running for the seat was a 2017 bill which deprived a major percentage of the citizens of accessible healthcare, which she plans to revoke at the earliest.
Former nuclear engineer and Navy commander Elaine Luria also prioritises healthcare, education, gun reforms, addressing gender inequality and the issue of equal pay. She emerged victorious in Virginia.
In South Carolina, winner Joe Cunningham is an environmental lawyer and erstwhile ocean engineer. Renewable energy projects, ban on offshore drilling and of course, climate change is marked in red letters in his to-do list.
Engineer Sean Casten, the co-founder of Recycled Energy Development, defeated Peter Roskam, who grabbed a lot of limelight for referring to climate science as “junk science”. Hopefully, Sean delivers his proposals about clean energy policies.
Dentist Jeff Van Drew won in New Jersey with promises on higher education, equal pay for women and affordable healthcare.
A much-needed change in power
314 Action runs fundraising initiatives for their candidates and their effective campaigns focused on practical problems rather than irrational promises have yielded unexpected results. It positively indicates that their campaigns have made many Americans aware of the looming socio-environmental issues.