You’re Marching for Science? Great. Do These Things First.
This week’s proposed 20% cut to NIH should be greeted with panic. Light your hair on fire, run screaming in the streets, start hyperventilating panic. Better yet, use your super powers.
Do not listen to the people telling you this budget will meet with significant resistance from Congress. Trump is neither stupid nor are the Republican’s ‘baffled’ by this strategy of gutting science funding. This is in keeping with all things Trump.
Here’s a simple guide to the GOP strategy for the remainder of Trump Administration:
- Trump administration does something horrific
- Everyone freaks out
- Congress/Federal courts make things temporarily marginally less horrific
- People are grateful
Don’t be grateful when we ‘only’ get a 10% cut as opposed to the proposed 18% decrease to NSF and NIH budgets. This isn’t a haircut. It’s a scalping.
For the next four years, the Trump administration’s sole goal is to kill everything that stands in the way of the rich getting richer. Sometimes the administration will attempt to kill things quickly – a guillotine to the neck as it were. This seems to be the fate of Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and 16 other agencies which will get no federal funding in Trump’s proposed budget.
Other times, changes will kill programs slowly slowly. This is what is happening to NIH and NSF. Studies have shown measurable increases in the US economy when we invest in science. That generate almost $2 for the US economy for every $1 invested. That we get better, less costly heath care, increase quality of life, and hire and train as well, if not better, than our industry counterparts. We are better with an educated America. None of this matters.
We are the middle of the pack of things that cost the government money but we arguably dead last when it comes to doing anything substantive to garner public support for science. You must fix this NOW. Like immediately. This month. Before the Scientists March.
Do these things now:
- Tell people you work for NIH. Your friends and neighbors likely have no idea you get NIH money. You work for the University of Chicago or some other “university” that charges a bunch of money so they think you have scads of money. But you don’t! You need NIH and NSF money to keep that job. Get the twibbon I just made for Facebook and Twitter to let them know you are impacted by the proposed cuts. Make these cuts personal because they are.
- Talk outside the echo chamber. If you’re on Twitter, Reddit or other social media you are more than likely talking to folks who are only incrementally different than you are. Get. Out. Of. Your. Box. Start talking to your neighbors, the folks at Temple or church or the Flying Spaghetti monster pub gathering. Tell them you are worried and why. Get their contact information, social media friend them and follow up.
- Give a science talk to the masses. There ARE masses who want to hear you talk. And April is an excellent opportunity to do it.
- Talk to your local library about giving a free lecture
- Talk to your university’s press office
- Ask the Kiwanis if they want a speaker
- Talk to the girl scouts, the boy scouts…anyone….
- Call or Visit Your Congress Critters. I have spent a lot of time in the last two months talking to lobbyists and politicians. They all say this: Your emails and tweets do nothing. Your calls work because they have to be logged. CALL. Do you live in your state’s capital? Better yet, go to their office and talk to them (politely). Invite them to your labs. Tell them about your what you do and why it matters. Avoid jargon like the plague.
- Get a forum in the next month so people can hear what you do. The most popular event I ever organized was a ‘teach in’ on a Saturday on Earth Day 1990. Thousands of students and community members flooded our undergraduate campus to hear professors talk about 50 different aspects of science from climate change to environmental toxins. Organize your own teach in. Big or small. Give a great talk in a public forum. Spend $40 and hand out science swag. Direct them to your lab’s website. Invite them to go with you to a Scientists March.
Panic, people. Then get out of your office and do the things. Report back, please. We need some success stories.