The Science Network is excited to share updates from three rounds of recipients of the Science for Public Good Fund. Launched in October 2017, the Science for Public Good Fund is a grant program for Science Network members to apply for financial support for advocacy actions or related events to defend the role of science in public policy, with an emphasis on understanding and addressing local impacts. Below are the summaries of projects that received funding.
Third round recipients
Organizing the Twin Cities Science Community for Climate Justice
In response to Enbridge, a wealthy international oil company, proposing a pipeline that would transport tar sands oil through the headwaters of the Mississippi River and violate numerous Native treaties, a group of early career scientists in St. Paul and Minneapolis utilized Science for Public Good funds to hold an event to highlight the intersections between the oil pipeline, Indigenous sovereignty, and the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives (MMIW). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers created a public comment toolkit to allow for experts and community members to weigh in on the pipeline proposal.
Climate Jubilee: Public Forum to Foster Climate Education, Action, and Connections in Tucson, Arizona
People living in Tucson, Arizona, are experiencing increases in extreme heat among other climate change impacts. But does the general public understand what resources are available to cope with climate change? This public forum brought climate science to the community in an effort to increase awareness and encourage greater involvement from the public on the pressing issue of climate change. This forum also served as a kickoff for a larger string of climate action activities, helping to build Tucson’s very own justice-centered climate coalition.
Creating Opportunities for Graduate Students in Science Policy
At a formative time in their careers, not enough graduate students have the opportunity to learn about science policy. Graduate students at the University of Maryland, College Park, developed and led a workshop series with the goal of creating and supporting a network of scientists whose research is advanced in direct support of policy formation. Participants learned about science-policy connections, participated in a summit with local, state, and federal representatives, and took part in a lobby day. This project served as a foundational step in establishing a mentorship program and science policy fellowship.
CCCH Science Advocacy for Climate Action Training
Early career scientist Melpomene Vasiliou at Yale’s Center for Climate Change and Health (CCCH) collaborated with a staff member at the Union of Concerned Scientists to execute a science advocacy for climate action training. The half-day training for students and early career scientists at Yale was created in hopes of shedding light on tools and building connections to translate academic work into on-the-ground individual and collective action. Following the training, participants reflected on and identified existing skills and technical expertise that can be leveraged in their climate action efforts, and then drew on the expertise of local and nation experienced advocates.
In attempts to amplify and celebrate Black chemists across the world, this year, organizers with #BlackInChem established the first #BlackChemistsWeek. The week-long digital event utilized both social media and Zoom platforms to connect Black chemists, showcase their research and interrogate Black experiences in the field. Between the global reception, spanning the UK, Australia, India and various countries in Africa, the elevator speech competition, and a multitude of panels and additional digital events, #BlackInChem engaged thousands of people worldwide, and created an even larger impact with their reach. With their base, #BlackInChem will continue to build community through monthly networking events and #BlackInChem lectures in anticipation for next year’s event and are working to create a website as a home base for continued collaborations.
NorCal Symposium on Climate and Pandemic Resilience in Healthcare
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare the vulnerabilities of health care systems in the U.S. to adapt and mobilize resources equitably and in a timely manner, the virtual NorCal Sustainable Healthcare Symposium served to convene and empower health care professionals to take action at their respective institutions. Through interdisciplinary sessions with health care workers, sustainability officers and advocates for sustainable solutions, the symposium, with over 700 participants, laid the groundwork for building a Northern California community of individuals and organizations invested in resilient and equitable health care systems. The symposium integrated community partners into the planning and presentations, and the sessions will be made accessible in the coming weeks to further expand the audience and impact of the symposium.
Second round recipients
Advocating Science and Stories: Bridging Graduate Students, Policymakers, and Communities Impacted by Climate Change
Kimberly Duong, a graduate student at the University of California-Irvine, along with support from the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, worked with fellow graduate students and community partners to host a workshop that provided hands-on training to prepare graduate students for meetings with policymakers. Participants travelled across California to engage with policymakers at the local and state level about the impacts of climate change on local disenfranchised and vulnerable communities, successfully harnessing science as a powerful tool of advocacy.
Early Career Scientists Bring Science to the Arizona Statehouse
The Arizona Science Policy Network (AzSPN), a group of early career scientists and engineers that advocates for evidence-based policy at the state-level, used its Science for Public Good funds to host the first Science Day at the Arizona State Legislature in February 2019. In their meetings, the early career scientists emphasized water conservation, quality, and access issues, a particularly resonant topic for Arizona residents. By educating state lawmakers about research being done in Arizona, the students hoped to draw politically diverse decisionmakers into dialogue and highlight the impacts of science policy on Arizona residents.
Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy at University of Michigan
To engage various stakeholders around the issue of nonpoint source pollution and the local Watershed Restoration Plan, the Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy (ESPA) group at University of Michigan utilized its grant from the Science for Public Good Fund to organize the Washtenaw County Consensus Conference. This community meeting brought together the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribe, whose reservation is part of the basin, as well as other community members and scientists to discuss issues impacting the watershed region, learn about water security, harmful pollutants, nutrient runoff, and access to clean water in the area. The event, held in April 2019 at the University Montana, served as the basis for the creation for a written report delivered to Michigan policymakers, highlighting community concerns and providing specific policy recommendations.
Fostering Science Advocacy Leaders in the Northeast
500 Women Scientists, a grassroots organization dedicated to fostering community and leadership of women in the scientific community, used their grant from the Science for Public Good Fund to host a day-long summit in March 2019 for leaders from the mid-Atlantic region to develop regionally-tailored advocacy positions and plans. After beginning their meeting with an illuminating discussion with Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive organization working on building political power equitably, trainers led participants through various exercises designed to hone science communication and advocacy skills around three focus areas: climate change, gender-based harassment in STEM, and education access. This model of scientist engagement served as a blueprint for future regional pods within 500 Women Scientists to utilize in the future.
Science Policy Symposium
Between more than 100 scientists and STEM professionals running for office nationwide, and scientists increasingly contacting their policy makers in order to inform science-based policies, scientists have become more politically active. Undoubtedly, however, implementing effective science-based policies involves producing high-quality scientific research, building bridges between researchers and policymakers, and effectively communicating scientific evidence to incorporate it into policy and practice. Therefore, SACNAS and GPS-BIOMED at UC Irvine (UCI) utilized their grant from the Science for Public Good Fund to host a public forum to assist in bridging the gap between early career scientists and policymakers. By inviting experts in science policy and newly elected local representatives, SACNAS and GPS-BIOMED at UCI were successfully able to engage a diverse audience in science policy, invite scientists who ran for office to share their expertise, and build bridges between early-career scientists and elected representatives.
Central Clark Fork Watershed Restoration Plan development
In the wake of a deficit of funding to establish an approved local Watershed Restoration Plan, concerned scientists at University of Montana and across the state have engaged in a volunteer effort to do so, which in the long-term would allow for an application for non-profit source control funding. Using funds from the Science for Public Good Fund, scientists held a community meeting at the University of MT to obtain public input on the planning process, which was attended by about 30 resource professionals and concerned residents. As a result of the community meeting, the Missoula Water Quality District began a resident monitoring program and carried out assessments on some of the creeks of high priority, which were identified by attendees of the meeting.
First round recipients
Advocate for Vallejo – Learn How Science Can Help!
In Vallejo California, a city whose more than 100,000 residents are exposed to air pollution from neighboring oil refineries and other industries, Science Network member Dr. Nancy Piotrowski used her Science for Public Good funds to hold two trainings for 45 Vallejo community members. Representatives from Fresh Air Vallejo, Vallejo Garden Club, Vallejo Citizen’s Air Monitoring Network, Citizens for a Better Environment and Napa Solano Audubon Society, joined Dr. Piotrowski as presenters. Both events aimed to assist residents most likely to be impacted by climate change and related environmental problems to learn about how science advocacy could help them more effectively address such concerns. As a result, three additional events were requested by participants to continue to build around local issues.
Building Scientist Advocacy Skills in Bozeman, MT
500 Women Scientists (500WS) is a grassroots organization dedicated to fostering community and leadership of women in the scientific community. Science Network member Emma Loveday and leader of the Bozeman, MT pod of 500WS utilized their Science for Public Good funds to host a “Science Policy” workshop, focused on the best strategies to build relationships with policy makers. Almost 30 scientists attended the event, which included a discussion between two Montana state representatives (Democrat Zach Brown and Republication Walt Sales) and was “an eye-opening look at how two politicians with differing views on policy can work together to draft policy and legislation that is meaningful and appropriate.”
Building a Broad Coalition for Scientific Integrity in the Indiana Heartland
The graduate student group Concerned Scientists @ Indiana University has been expanding and extending their reach and impact of their advocacy efforts to more fully represent diverse communities across Indiana. Working to engage their community in science advocacy, the group organized a candidate forum with three candidates running for the House of Representatives 9th Congressional District in attendance. Over 150 participants were able to discuss with the candidates their science policy platforms & promote the importance of evidence-based decision making.
Communicating the Need for an Institution for Sustainable Agriculture within Iowa State University
In 2017, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, an Iowan institution that brought together various stakeholders engaging with sustainable, science-based land and water management—the only one of its kind in the Midwest Corn Belt—was defunded by the state legislature and governor. Working with a broad grassroots coalition of invested and engaged Iowans, Angie Carter, Ahna Kruzic, and Carrie Chennault created a series of videos, funded by the Science for Public Good Fund, that communicated a bold new vision for revitalizing, refunding, and reopening the Leopold Center. These videos were the centerpiece of a campaign to emphasize the importance of the center: to garner public support, and to press local universities and state lawmakers to re-invest.
Empowering Seattle-Based Scientists, Activists, and Labor Leaders to Weigh in on Public Health and Safety Issues
Whenever new federal regulations—or adjustments to existing regulations—are proposed, agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency must solicit public comment. Labor leaders from the University of Washington (UW) UAW 4121, UW scientists and students, environmental activists, and representatives from the Public Comment Project held a one-day training on submitting public comments which featured three opportunities to make recommendations on issues relevant to labor, environmentalists, and scientists. The training aimed to help each group maximize their potential to influence important regulations.
Improv Training for Scientists
In 2016, students at Colorado State University established a club called Science in Action for all those interested in science policy and communication. With funds from Science for Public Good, a local improvisational theatre group trained the club to be flexible when speaking to people with different agendas and beliefs. Additionally, an expert science and policy speaker assisted students in understanding how to hone and tailor their messages for busy and non-science-minded legislators. Student participants further put their new skills into action by meeting with Colorado state legislators to discuss renewable energy policy, climate change, and funding for science.
Incorporating Advocacy into the Graduate School Experience
Alex Hruska, an early career scientist at Northeastern University, was awarded a Science for Public Good Fund to implement a science advocacy workshop series. With UCS staff input, he co-designed a three-part workshop that helped students to identify their representatives, build a case around an issue they care about, and set up a meeting to communicate the importance of this issue. In addition to training 30 people, the workshops helped pull together a group of graduate students whose passion for science-backed decision making formed the base of a new advocacy community at Northeastern University.
Lead Exposure in Milwaukee: Building Community Organizing and Advocacy
In response to the prevailing public health issue of disproportionate lead exposure in low-income and Black communities, Milwaukee Area Science Advocates hosted a Science Action Day mini-conference for the community to discuss lead in drinking water, to empower Milwaukee citizens through community organizing and to equip community members with the tools to mobilize and make a positive impact in their community. Over 80 residents attended the workshop. Following the workshop, community organizers and residents participated in a strategic discussion regarding community engagement and lead abatement strategies.
Developing Early Career Scientists Advocates in Wisconsin Food Systems Policy
To assist in developing researcher storytelling skills and training new agricultural scientists in advocating for crucial funding and sound public policy based in science, agricultural science graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison organized a series of actions and workshops. With the assistance of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food & Energy Outreach staff, UW graduate students hosted a workshop for 37 participants from UW on impactful storytelling to further develop op-eds, letters to elected officials, and one-pagers related to the next federal Farm Bill. Science writers at UW led a skills-building workshop in the morning, while the afternoon featured a discussion with agriculture and food policy experts.
Partying for Clean Air and Water in West Baltimore
In West Baltimore, where issues of environmental pollution is rampant, several nonprofit organizations have been working with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University to monitor air and water quality in the neighborhoods, providing residents with the tools and training needed to test their own drinking water. To get the word out about these efforts, Anna Scott, an early career scientists at Johns Hopkins, has worked with Clean Water Action and Communities, two environmental justice organizations, to throw a lively block party in West Baltimore, to fuse together food, music and presentations on the science and policy relevant to the neighborhoods. Presentations touched on policies behind unhealthy air and water, what test results mean for residents’ health, and how residents of West Baltimore can work together to demand cleaner air and water in their neighborhoods. The party served as a foundation for the nonprofits continuing their work with residents on understanding the science and health effects of pollution and developing grassroots efforts for change.
Planning for and Getting to a 100% Clean Energy Future
With funds from Science for Public Good, CalTech’s Science and Engineering Policy student group held a panel during CalTech’s Earth Week speaker series to engage people around California’s position as a leader in the push towards clean electricity. The speakers (from CalTech, Union of Concerned Scientists, Southern California Edison, and state government) discussed the transformation of California’s electricity grid, how to strive towards a goal of 100% clean electricity and SB100, a bill passed in California, aiming to push standards to 100% clean energy by 2045. Over 60 students, faculty, and local community members attended, and the panel set the stage nicely for the students’ subsequent meetings with CA assemblyman’s Holden’s office.
University Science Policy Group Brings Message to the Larger Community
The Science Policy Group (SPG) is an organization based at the University of California, Irvine, which seeks to inspire student scientists to get engaged in the political process and help inform evidence-based policies. While the group has enjoyed many successes, expanding in membership and facilitating testimony, op-eds in newspapers, and lawmaker-constituent visits from its members, SPG utilized its funds from Science for Public Good to take the group a step further, connecting more people. The funds allowed for early career scientists to host a community roundtable event, at which scientists, community members, and policymakers interacted and equally shared their knowledge with each other.
Building Student Leadership and Science Activism at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
In response to seeing the void of student-led environmental activism groups at three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) - Meharry Medical College, Fisk University, and Tennessee State University - Cliff Cockerham utilized Science for Public Good funds to train student leaders on each campus to launch and facilitate their own environmental justice-focused group, with faculty assistance. The ultimate goal for these groups was threefold: to draw attention to issues of environmental injustice for communities of color in Nashville; to pressure Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to break with national Republican leadership on climate change and environmental justice; and to unite with student environmental justice organizations on other HBCU campuses in Tennessee, and with similar groups statewide.
Fifth round recipients
Putting the Politics of Climate Change Under the Microscope
As climate change continues to pose a threat to our planet, education and action needs to continue to ensure that decisionmakers have the right facts to support climate change mitigation policy. There are many ways to bring attention to this public health and civil rights issue, but the Politics Under the Microscope (PUTM) podcast is one creative way to bring attention to issues that will affect everyone, especially those in low income and marginalized communities. PUTM has released a series of podcast episodes tackling climate change, environmental sustainability, and conservation issues with a specific focus on local environmental advocacy and the fight for environmental justice. Featured in this podcast series were some guest speakers, including Amanda Sachs from the Environmental Advocates of New York; and Jennifer Crosslin and Barbara Nelson from Cherokee Concerned Citizens in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Having these valuable conversations illustrated what citizen science looks like in practice and how data collected by “citizen scientists” can be used to inform more comprehensive environmental policies.
Science Policy Network-Detroit: Action Group Initiative
Putting science into action is paramount in the fight for a better, safer, and more just world. An effective way to use our skills is to inform policymakers using research and data to support claims. Science Policy Network-Detroit (SciPol-Detroit) is a Detroit, Michigan-based organization, created by scientists and students in the Detroit area who are passionate about science advocacy and science communication. This past June, SciPol-Detroit was able to send 14 members to Capitol Hill to meet with Michigan lawmakers. Members each attended a series of workshops to prepare them for their Hill presentations. The members presented on a variety of issues, including maternal health, health inequities, and support for scientific funding. SciPol-Detroit also held a virtual public community violence panel in July that included Rep. Brenda Carter (MI State Representative, District 29), Barbara Jones (faculty at Wayne State University and youth violence prevention advocate), and Dr. Pontus Leander (Associate Professor of Social Psychology at WSU). Future plans include a summer action groups community initiative through September 2022 where local members will engage and inform the community while passing out infographics and resources related to air pollution, lead exposure, water injustices, and community violence.
Developing Strategies for Communicating PFAS Risks
Communicating science -- especially educating the community about environmental toxins that affect our air, food, and water – can be challenging, but still necessary. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality was recently alerted to the presence of dangerous levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) in tissues of fish in the Chickahominy River and the James River watershed. Communities situated downstream of the Richmond International Airport are at high risk of PFAS exposure. A research team, affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Community Engagement and Impact, conducted surveys of local anglers to understand communication barriers in fish consumption advisories – as communities often are not aware of or do not fully understand the risks they are being exposed to. The team held an informational and planning roundtable with key stakeholders and local leaders to discuss plans to reduce consumption of fish with contaminants like PFAS. A challenge that science communicators often face when discussing PFAS with the public is that PFAS (and other chemical contaminants) are invisible. The surveys conducted revealed fatalistic views of the term “forever chemicals.” A key factor in this project was educating the community so that they feel like they can take real action in mitigating the risks. In attendance at the roundtable were representatives from the Henrico County Health Department and community partners from the Lower James River Roundtable. Lastly, the group conducted a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities) analysis of current PFAS messaging on social media. These efforts will continue through the creation of a PFAS Communication Toolkit, continued survey research, and the sharing of survey data with community partners.
Science Students Advocacy Workshops
The COVID-19 pandemic has moved us to think about more ways to reach one another in virtual spaces. Not only this – more scientists, especially early-career scientists, are looking into ways they can advocate for science. The Kentucky Academy of Science (KAS) developed two online Student Science Action Workshops for undergraduates and graduate students pursuing science degrees in Kentucky. The workshops provided training on becoming effective advocates on public policy issues pertaining to science. Students were provided with a primer on resources that could connect them with the legislative process, tips on effective advocacy, and reports on current issues that could benefit from science advocacy. KAS collected feedback from students and learned that there is an appetite for learning how to advocate for science. Students were eager to make a difference and realized we could all benefit from a stronger voice from the scientific community in public policy affairs. The workshops will continue again next year, with a goal of reaching more current students and early career scientists.
Salton Sea Environmental Timeseries Data Dashboard
Educating and including our communities is empowering our communities. Community forums are a great way for the public to learn about local environmental concerns and ways they can get involved to make a difference. The Salton Sea Environmental Timeseries (SSET) completed a pilot community science program to collect water quality data from the Salton Sea (a highly saline and contaminated body of water in southern California). Through this project, SSET was able to form a team of committed community members who plan to collect data at regular intervals. After this program, SSET held a virtual community forum led by 4 community scientists, a community partner from Alianza Coachella Valley, and four professional scientists from Loma Linda University, University of California San Diego, and University of California Irvine. SSET also developed and publicly launched their website, saltonseascience.org, where they have developed a public data dashboard to present the community’s observations and provide accessible data for the public to use in advocacy.
Rhapsody in Black -Racism and Policy Call to Action
The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition (NEO BHC) has a vision to achieve health parity in the Black community. By addressing disparities in education, employment, housing, public health and the impacts on the health of Black people, NEO BHC works to empower, education and advocate for health equity in underserved communities. The coalition’s African American Policy Committee (AAPC) consists of public, private, and community members working to collaborate to advocate and influence policy with respect to Black health. The AAPC has teen members who are passionate about advocacy for Black health issues who asked that programming be created for them as well. The Teen Truth Committee was formed to train teens to work on environmental issues including lead exposure, tobacco legislation, access to healthy foods, and antiracism efforts in the hospital system. Training youth as advocates empowered them to work to create effective change in their communities. NEO BHC plans to hold a gun violence summit in collaboration with local youth and Black Lives Matter Cleveland.
Connecting Communities to Effectively Address PFAS in North Carolina
Bridging gaps between entities when advocating for science effectively increases people power. The Science Policy Pack at NC State (SciPolPack) began their project with a goal of communicating the issue of PFAS to communities in North Carolina and providing them with information to enact change. Stakeholders from academia, advocacy, and government entities were interviewed; which revealed a common goal of establishing more enforceable regulations on PFAS, namely the amount of PFAS that industries are allowed to discharge into local waterways. SciPolPack found that these stakeholder groups do not always communicate effectively with one another to drive change and developed a report that summarized interview findings and the history of PFAS exposure in North Carolina. Writing workshops were held to train participants on how to prepare a stakeholder report, and members delivered a presentation on policy communication at the Third National PFAS Meeting. The final published report and materials will be publicly available, and the SciPolPack will be opening memberships to undergraduates. Members expressed the usefulness of this experience at an earlier stage of a science career, as well as an opportunity to build momentum and connect with others in the science policy community.
Project ECHO: Connecting Mental Health, Climate Change, and Nature
Interdisciplinary collaborations have been essential in the fight against climate change, health justice and their intersections. Research suggests that educated healthcare workers are best positioned to serve as ‘trusted messengers’ who can make the case for climate justice and planetary health to colleagues, patients, community members, and policy makers. The New Hampshire Healthcare Workers for Climate Action designed Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a collaborative model of medical education and care management that helps to create a culture of health for all people no matter where they live. In partnership with the University of New Hampshire, NH-HWCA designed a 4-session Project ECHO virtual educational series that centered principles of reciprocity: supporting the inclusion of the planet’s ecosystem services in healing practices, while generating collective action for conservation of our oceans, land, and natural resources.
Community Needs Assessment for North Birmingham
The Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP) is a local nonprofit that focuses on healthy air, climate change, and environmental justice. GASP works to educate residents of North Birmingham on the environmental hazards caused by the 35th Avenue Superfund Site. Through the use of OurVoice, a citizen science empowerment initiative developed by researchers at Stanford University, “citizen scientists” are able to report and document living experiences in their communities; including proximity to industrial facilities, air pollution, access to grocery stores, flood zones, road quality, housing quality, and other neighborhood features that may make it easier or more difficult to be healthy in the community. The objective of this project is to advance health equity for North Birmingham, Alabama through citizen science empowerment. Data collection is ongoing and will be used to generate reports of data collected by residents, host community meetings with residents to discuss findings, and to identify key priorities for local policy development.