Seeing Science: Science and Politics

We are beginning our “Seeing Science” series. Science influences many different areas our our lives- even ones that seem quite removed. Over the next three episodes, we are going to focus on how science influences politics, art, and the media.

This episode we talked with Sheril Kirshenbaum, the executive director of Science Debate, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that asks political candidates to think about questions regarding science policy (link below!) We ask who in government needs science, how to address science issues from both sides of the aisle, who do we listen to to inform our ideas about science policy, and how we can get involved in science policy?

Memorable Quotes

“When I think of science policy I think of how we will be able to feed nine billion people by 2050, or whether vulnerable populations will be prepared for more extreme storms in the coming years, or how we’re going to make sure that the next superbug isn’t a huge problem, or how will deal with the opioid crisis. So science really intersects with our lives in thousands of ways every single day and the science policies that are created by our leaders, elected officials in office, nationally and internationally, that’s what’s going to influence the way we’re able to respond and cope and prepare.”

” What happens at the local level often impacts us the most personally…so from that standpoint [it depends on] our state priorities or, in some ways even what our local priorities are. So it’s really important, for anyone listening, you don’t just vote every four years. You show up for local elections and think about who is running for city council and who is on the school board, because they’re going to be thinking about the things that are going to probably affect your family and your community the most.”

“I think it’s not just about reaching policymakers- I think that’s great- but I think all of these things trickle up. So it’s when the public really carries about these issues that the media and the policymakers start to recognize why they matter and why they need to start talking about it more.”


Here are links to Sheril’s personal website and Science Debate. For the next series of elections, keep checking Science Debate’s website for candidate’s answers to their science policy questions. If you are interested in learning more about why science literacy is important, check our her book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. Sheril can also be found hosting MSU’s “Our Table” and NPR’s “Serving Up Science.

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