Members of the environmental justice movement have launched a new website, called the Science and Community Action Network (SciCAN), to bring together grassroots movements, scientists, and subject matter experts from across the country to address the many health and safety threats that frontline communities are facing.
SciCAN will host resources and facilitate connections that enable equitable partnerships grounded and centered in the expertise and lived experience of community members, bringing together science and community activism so that allies can help support movements in service of marginalized groups.
In addition to supporting community-to-community collaborations, SciCAN founders hope the site will help rebuild trust between members of grassroots movements and subject-matter experts who want to support them in building power and reaching their policy goals. Through ongoing training opportunities, organizers hope to help scientists build skills and awareness that can help overcome systemic inequities in research, academic and advocacy spaces. These past interactions have left frontline activists understandably wary.
“Too often, scientific research and policymaking has an extractive relationship with frontline stories and efforts, while excluding community expertise,” said Beto Lugo Martinez, SciCAN co-founder and advisory board member of the Moving Forward Network. “The truth is that impactful, sustainable, and actionable research is only possible when guided by communities.”
SciCAN encourages collaborations between the individuals and groups from frontline communities who face the greatest environmental justice challenges, as well as scientists and experts across the country who study those issues. The aim of the new web platform is to ensure that the advocates who are trying to make change in their own communities can access and utilize the resources needed to support that work. SciCAN will also support scientists and other subject-matter experts who want their work to be meaningful – providing opportunities for partnerships on issues like pollution impacts, public health, and climate change.
“Fighting for environmental justice is more effective when integrating community knowledge into academic practice,” said Lugo Martinez. “When it comes to shaping the research agenda in the environmental health space, our intention is to make sure those whose lives are directly impacted by findings, and the actions that result from them, are leading the way.”
“Data and research are valuable tools, and we miss opportunities when they’re exclusive to academia and journals and not integrated into everyday life,” said Dr. Elizabeth Friedman, SciCAN co-founder and environmental and academic physician in Kansas City. “Through SciCAN, frontline communities can support each other in their fights for justice, and scientists can choose to use their expertise to contribute to meaningful, impactful work.”
SciCAN was created by members of the environmental justice movement, centered in community expertise and community experts, with support from the Union of Concerned Scientists. For more information, visit scican.org.