As we face uncertainty, let’s stand together
Given the outcome of the US presidential election, some of our members have asked us if they should fear an erosion of federal support for research funding. Others have asked more pointed questions, such as: What is the GSA doing to defend the interests of geneticists? Young scientists, they’ve told us, are now even more worried about their future in science. What will happen when the upcoming administration appoints a new NIH Director, White House science adviser, and leaders of other scientific agencies? How secure are international postdocs who want to stay in the United States?
As GSA’s Executive Director, I have heard your concerns and, indeed, share many of them. But in this time of uncertainty, know that you’re not alone.
GSA is about more than our 5700 members. We work to promote the value of science, in the US and throughout the world. We bring together scientists and ideas, and we advocate for discoveries fueled by curiosity. We advance model organism research and its powerful contributions to knowledge. And we embrace our responsibility to help ensure the fiscal and intellectual sustainability of research in genetics and genomics. We’re in science for the long-term – our view spans not just months or years, but decades and beyond.
It is more urgent than ever for GSA to advocate for you and to provide a forum that brings together our communities to articulate the interests and priorities of geneticists. We find strength working with other groups, and actively participate in advocacy coalitions that include the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), the Coalition of Life Sciences (CLS), and Research!America. These coalitions represent hundreds of thousands of scientists.
We empower our members to engage in direct advocacy by coordinating events such as Capitol Hill Days, when they can share with Congress the importance of their work. Sonia Hall, GSA’s newly-appointed Program Director for Early-Career Scientist engagement, recently met with Congressional representatives and staffers in Washington, D.C. She talked about the trainee experience and the future scientific workforce. She also touched on the significant investment taxpayers made into her career and reminded lawmakers that failing to fund biological research makes it difficult for highly-trained talent to stay in research intensive positions.
Having a strong voice is especially important to our student and postdoc members. We’re working to bring together these vital contributors to our community, recruiting them to important roles on GSA committees that help shape our vision. This past summer, trainee advisory representatives made insightful, energetic contributions to our society’s big experiment, The Allied Genetics Conference, which brought seven separate research community meetings under one roof and attracted over 3000 attendees from 46 countries.
In 2017, GSA plans to form a new committee composed of graduate students and postdocs focused on issues like scientific policy, communications, and outreach. This committee will be another way for GSA to engage with its younger members and for these members to effect real change.
How can you help? Send us your ideas and ask questions. Contribute to our trainee advisory board, write a post for our Genes to Genomes blog, complete our surveys so we can better understand and represent you. Propose a workshop at a GSA-sponsored meeting. Become a GSA member and help us amplify all our voices by encouraging others in your lab to check us out. Contact me directly if you want to talk or if you’re struggling with a situation I might be able to ameliorate.
Take the time to call your elected officials or visit their staff, whether locally or in Washington, D.C. Better yet, contact GSA beforehand, so one of us or another scientist can accompany you on your visit. Engage with friends and family — and show them why science matters.
Over the coming months and years, we must be relentless in our support for science and its values of curiosity, respect for evidence, collaboration, an open mind, integrity, and dogged persistence, among others.
As good scientific citizens, let’s find our commonalities and discuss our differences. Let’s never stop exploring, asking questions, having fun, and collaborating with one another. Let’s continue to speak — especially with those who may not agree — about why science and evidence are so important. Let’s continue to be inclusive.
Let’s face the uncertainty. Together.