New Washington interest group devotes itself to science

With debates over stem cell research, natural resources, environmental hazards and threats of high-tech terrorist attacks sweeping national politics, it’s a surprise that the scientific community went for so long without its own lobbying team in Washington.

But that time is over. The organization Scientists and Engineers for America was officially founded on Sept. 27 in the midst of an unprecedented politicization of science issues.

This grassroots organization is a public interest group dedicated to raising issues regarding public policy for science and technology. The group’s mission statement is to “influence targeted elections at all levels of government to renew respect for evidence-based debate and decision-making in politics.”

SEA was launched by a small number of scientists and concerned citizens. Major growth has marked SEA’s first two weeks: 3,500 members have joined, over a dozen of which are Nobel laureates. The SEA Board of Advisors includes Dr. John H. Gibbons and Dr. Neal Lane, former Clinton science advisors.

To highlight its purpose, SEA has issued a list of principles referred to as the “Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers.” This serves to protect scientists with resolutions such as “no scientist should fear reprisals or intimidation because of the results of their research,” as well as to prevent the federal government from hindering scientific innovation and information that would benefit the public.

This is evident by the proposed notion that “the federal government shall never intentionally publish false or misleading scientific information nor post such material on federal websites.”

SEA seems to be most concerned with preventing ideological biases within the national government from affecting scientific research and public health policy.

Dr. Susan F. Wood, a founding director of SEA as well as an award winning scientific researcher, asserts that “SEA raises these health issues so that the public can look to its elected leaders and demand that they take on these issues.”

However, SEA is not endorsing any particular candidate or party for the 2006 elections.

Wood maintains that the group was formed for the long term and encourages students to become involved.

“Whether you are a science student or study arts in humanities, [public health, science and technology] are issues affecting your future,” Wood said. “SEA advocates for a society that will work for you and pushes for a government that is competent in making decisions that are in the public’s best interest.”

SEA has a number of events coming up throughout the country and all who are interested are welcome to attend. Dr. Michael Stebbins, an SEA board member will be lecturing in New York and Massachusetts.

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