WASHINGTON (September 21, 2021)—The federal government’s scientific workforce has faced unprecedented pressure in recent years, with thousands of expert staff driven out by political interference, low morale and inadequate support for their work. Today, however, there’s an opportunity for a new direction for federal science. With new leadership, now is the time to bring bright, diverse scientists into public service.
Today, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is releasing a new set of resources for scientists looking to explore a career in the federal government. These resources will help early-career scientists navigate the process of applying for federal jobs and put their expertise to work on behalf of the public.
“We can’t solve problems unless we have the evidence we need to understand them,” said Jacob Carter, senior scientist for the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS. “Government can’t create good policies without scientific and technical staff. Medical research, air quality monitoring, the protection of endangered species, food inspection, and tracking severe weather all require experts to put their knowledge to work.”
The need to invest in the scientific workforce has never been clearer. In a 2018 survey of federal scientific staff, a majority of respondents said that workforce reductions and political influence made it harder for their agencies to carry out their missions. UCS identified more than 200 attacks on science during the previous administration and found a decline in staffing levels at key agencies. And the increasing dangers of climate change and pollution, as well as the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, have vividly demonstrated the need for scientific research and evidence-based policies at the federal level.
UCS experts point to new policies to protect government science as a good sign for those who are considering applying for federal jobs.
“The work federal scientists do really matters, and that means the environment they’re working in matters, too,” said UCS investigative researcher Taryn MacKinney. “Scientists should be free to follow their research wherever it leads, communicate about the work they do publicly, and collaborate with colleagues inside and outside of government. When scientists can thrive in public service, we all benefit.”
Carter, himself a former EPA scientist, writes more about scientific work at the federal level at the UCS blog.