Who is representing you, the STEM professionals in Politics?

Kamana Misra, PhD, President Association for Women in Science, NJ

Should this be a wake up call for scientists? How many of us know, or care about our reZwicker titlepresentation in the Congress? Some disturbing statistics from the 113th Congress1:

  • Congressmen with science background, ~7%
  • Doctors with MD degrees, ~4%
  • Engineers, ~1%
  • PhD degree holders, <1%, (~0.5%)

So who is actually representing us? For Senators lawyers top the list followed by public service/politics and business people. For Representatives business professionals are the majority followed by public service/politics and lawyers.

Certainly, they are very capable and able representatives, but can they really understand the pain of downsizing a functional lab due to a funding crunch? The pain of terminating groundbreaking research projects due to lack of research staff? And worst, the pain of terminating employment of scientists, who have been taught to believe that they are the best of the breed?

Here in New Jersey, our representation is even worst in the two legislative bodies, the State Senate and Assembly. Amongst these lawmakers ultimately responsible for guiding New Jersey out of our economic downturn, we have a single MD doctor representing us. We all know that the states that invest in STEM are strong states. According to the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, 14 of the world’s top 20 biopharmaceutical companies are in NJ and we have the world’s highest concentration of scientific professionals2. By 2018, New Jersey needs to fill over 269,000 jobs in STEM. It seems to be a logical conclusion: We need to increase the representation of STEM professionals and scientists in the New Jersey Assembly.

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