The Science Policy subgroup of the Seattle 500 Women Scientists group has had 2 and 2/2 meetings: 1 shared google hangout, 1 3 person pre-meeting-meeting, and 2 brainstorming and planning sessions (these are the the full meetings!). As we try to get our feet under us, these are the issues we are grappling with over and over again.
Finding our niche
One thing that unites the women who have come to the science policy subgroup meetings is a feeling of being overwhelmed by the news and wanting to take action - on basically everything! With a core group of ~10 people, though, we recognize that we will have to narrow our focus in order to have an impact. At our first meeting we decided to focus on a single short, medium, and long term initiative to try to build capacity and momentum before broadening our efforts.
Plugging into existing expertise
While the outpouring of action in the face of threats to science is inspiring, it also means that we have to be careful not to replicate the work that others have already been doing. One of the action items we assigned from our first meeting was to do an inventory of our networks - who are we connected to that is already doing this work? Can they advise or collaborate with us? Should we focus on supporting them instead of starting something new? Are there times where we should just get out of the way?
Getting everyone together
We spent a few weeks after establishing our subgroup struggling to find a time to meet. When we did get together it was clear that all the brainstorming documents in the world couldn’t replace the energy and support we drew from being together. We spoke with emotion about the isolation we feel trying to push forward with research while feeling pulled towards advocacy. We spoke honestly about the risks we were willing to take with our careers. We pushed each other to consider the consequences of our choices on others. An authentic and powerful movement will require these conversations, but the reality is that for many of us they still aren’t possible over skype or social media. Finding balance between coming together and the everyday pressures on our time and energy will definitely be something we will have to focus on going forward.
Want to get involved?
Here are the initiatives the Science Policy team is working on right now. Please get in touch if you have suggestions or want to get involved!
Summer Science Series - These monthly summer salons (starting in June!) will focus on providing tools and information for members who want to get involved in science policy but aren’t sure where to start. We’re planning a “Civics for Scientists” training session and a session about challenges women face in academia. Other session topics coming soon!
Network mapping - Our members are already doing great work in the Seattle area and we want to know what they’re working on! If you are connected with a group you think 500 Women Scientists should partner with, know about, or learn from, please get in touch!
Evidence-based policy - Central to our group’s mission statement is a call to hold lawmakers to evidence-based decision making. But what exactly does that mean? We are working with social scientists to develop a concrete set of principles that lay out best practices for the use of scientific evidence in policy making.