Science for Public Good Fund: Grant Recipients

The Science for Public Good Fund, a UCS Science Network initiative providing financial support for scientist advocates, announced its first round of grant awards in October 2017. Below are summaries of the projects that received funding in that first round.

Find out more about the fund and how to apply.

Launching 3 New Environmental Justice Student Groups at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Nashville, TN

Meharry Medical College, Fisk University, and Tennessee State University are HBCUs that currently do not have student-led environmental activism groups or organizations on their campuses. Cliff Cockerham received a UCS grant 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 is 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.

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. Who is expected to weigh in? Whose commentary is considered most important? And how does one go about writing a substantive and informed public comment to potentially influence rules that will affect one’s own community? Labor leaders from the University of Washington (UW) UAW 4121, UW scientists and students, environmental activists, and representatives from the Public Comment Project received a grant from UCS for a one-day training on submitting public comments. The training will center on three existing opportunities to make recommendations on issues relevant to labor, environmentalists, and scientists—and help each group maximize their potential to influence important regulations.

Helping Floridians Affected by Climate Change Effectively Speak Truth to Power

Some Florida legislators share a shocking disbelief in climate change—a dangerous position for anyone representing millions of people living along 1,200 miles of coastline where seas are rapidly rising. David Hastings has received a UCS grant to hold a workshop in Bradenton, Florida, to help locals who are most vulnerable to sea level rise, flooding, and storm surges learn to communicate effectively about their concerns with their US representative, Vern Buchanan (R). Experts in climate change communication, climate science, and legislative outreach will help participants identify the most important requests they want to make of Representative Buchanan, and overcome any reticence—or anti-science derailments—that might stand in their way. Following the workshop, the grant will also allow a group of participants to travel to Representative Buchanan’s office to meet and discuss their requests in person.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Politically Engaged Scientists

Every year, scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives converge for two days in Washington, DC, for STEM-themed Congressional Visit Days (CVD). For the next CVD, Alex Hruska has received a grant from UCS to help bring ten of his fellow Northeastern University graduate students in STEM programs to visit their senators and representatives in Washington, DC. Prior to the trip, Hruska will coach the group in effective congressional meetings; while there, they will discuss the policies that are priorities for their work in at least three meetings with their members of Congress. Post-CVD, the students will release a guidebook to effective communication with elected officials.

Communicating the Need for an Institution for Sustainable Agriculture within Iowa State University

For 30 years, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture was an Iowan institution that brought together farmers, agricultural science students, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders to collaborate on ideas and initiatives for sustainable, science-based land and water management. In 2017, the center—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 will create a series of videos that communicate a bold new vision for revitalizing, refunding, and reopening the Leopold Center, funded by a UCS grant. These videos will be 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.

Arming the Residents of Vallejo, CA, with Facts, Resources to Fight New Sources of Pollution

Vallejo is a city in California’s Bay Area whose more than 100,000 residents are exposed to air pollution from neighboring oil refineries and other industries. A planned cement factory and deep-water port would create more pollution for residents, including schoolchildren, with an elementary school 1400 feet away from a planned site. Nancy Piotrowski has received a UCS grant to hold a one-day training for 40 Vallejo community members. Residents will learn about the health effects of the pollutants in the air, and how to monitor risks to their health. Piotrowski will also lead a workshop in effectively communicating the science behind these threats to human health, culminating with participants writing letters to their county supervisors, the school board, and the Vallejo city council.

Improv Training to Help Colorado Students Communicate Importance of Climate Change, Renewable Energy, Science Funding to Lawmakers

In 2016, students at Colorado State University created a club called Science in Action for all those interested in science policy and communication. After holding forums and meetings to discuss effective science communication, Rod Lammers is ready to bring Science in Action to the Colorado legislature. But first: thanks to a grant from UCS, a local improvisational theatre group will train the club to be flexible when speaking to people with different agendas and beliefs. And an expert science and policy speaker will provide another training to help students understand how to hone and tailor their messages for busy and non-science-minded legislators. Students will discuss renewable energy policy, climate change, and funding for science with Colorado lawmakers, with whom they hope to develop productive relationships.

University Science Policy Group Will Bring 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 over the last year, expanding in membership and facilitating testimony, op-eds in newspapers, and lawmaker-constituent visits from its members, they want to take the group a step further, and connect even more people. SPG has received a UCS grant that will allow the early career scientists to host a community roundtable event, at which scientists, community members, and policymakers will interact and equally share their knowledge with each other; each group has something to learn from the other.

Partying for Clean Air and Water in West Baltimore

Americans affected worst by environmental pollution are often also beset by other injustices such as poverty, racism, over-policing, and trauma. These work in combination to make it difficult for people in polluted areas to feel as though they have any political power to call for fundamental rights such as clean air and water. West Baltimore is one of these areas. Currently, several nonprofit organizations are working with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University to monitor air and water quality in the neighborhoods of West Baltimore, and to provide residents with the tools and training that they need to test their own drinking water. To get the word out about these efforts, Anna Scott, with assistance from a UCS grant, will work with these organizations to throw a lively block party in West Baltimore, with food, music—and presentations on the science and policies behind unhealthy air and water, what test results mean for residents’ health, and how West Baltimoreans can work together to demand cleaner air and water in their neighborhoods. Once the party is over, the nonprofit co-hosts will continue to work with residents on understanding the science and health effects of pollution, and developing grassroots efforts for change.

Building Scientist Advocacy Skills in Bozeman, MT

500 Women Scientists (500WS) is a grassroots organization founded in response to the November election. Emma Loveday and the Bozeman pod of 500W will use funds from UCS to organize a scientist engagement seminar. This training will share strategies on building relationships with political groups and policy makers and creating scientific-community partnerships to improve access and communication between local groups. With over 60 local members, the Bozeman 500WS pod will be well suited to advise and advocate for the local community on important issues.

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