BY PETER DORFMAN
The 2016 election generated widespread concern about the anti-science rhetoric used by the campaigns of President Donald Trump and other Republicans. “In the past, science has gotten very strong bipartisan support,” says Michael Hamburger, a professor of geological sciences at Indiana University. “Something has changed significantly in the last few years.”
In February 2017, shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Hamburger and several colleagues organized an open meeting on the IU campus to air these issues. To their surprise, nearly 200 people showed up. That meeting led to the formation of Concerned Scientists at IU (CSIU), modeled loosely after the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based lobbying group.
“Scientists are terrible lobbyists,” says Steve Vigdor, professor emeritus of physics, one of CSIU’s co-founders. “They don’t communicate well. They don’t assert themselves on policy issues. We’re trying to learn how to be more effective at those things.”
Much of CSIU’s agenda is focused on events held on campus but open to the public. A January 2018 meeting featuring former Environmental Protection Agency head Gina McCarthy is the highest profile event to date.
In the community, the group has worked with WonderLab Museum of Science, Health and Technology to help educate kids and support Indiana high school science teachers, and it has a table at the outdoor Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.
CSIU has a core group of about 20 professors and students, but its mailing list includes nearly 750 IU faculty members, students, administrators, and staff, as well as local citizens.
“We don’t speak for IU,” Hamburger notes, “but decreasing funding for science and the attempt to make graduate student income taxable are things the university has an official stance on that we think coincides with ours.”
The group is officially nonpartisan but is clearly aligned with progressive politics. It actively supports the annual March for Science, held in Washington, D.C., and other cities, and invites Bloomington community members to participate in it.
“We encourage anyone who values science to join us,” Hamburger says. “Recently, we’ve gotten a cohort of student leaders involved, including undergraduates. That’s very exciting.”
For more information, visit csiub.org.