Science for the People: The 1970s and Today

The anti-Vietnam war protests in the late 1960s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spawned not only the Union of Concerned Scientists.  A parallel group of scientists and engineers started Science for the People (SftP) to tackle “the militarization of scientific research, the corporate control of research agendas, the political implications of sociobiology and other scientific theories, the environmental consequences of energy policy, [and] inequalities in health care…”

In April 2014, I was fortunate to be invited to speak on the closing panel of the conference, Science for the People: The 1970s and Today, with my colleague Dr. Karoline Pershell, another AAAS Fellow.  Below is the theme of panel session, titled, “SftP 2.0...Where do we go from here?”

The founding document for SCIENTISTS dedicated to vigorous SOCIAL and POLITICAL ACTION (precursor to SftP) announced the intent to establish a “forum where all concerned scientists — and especially students and younger members of the profession — may explore the questions, Why are we scientists? For whose benefit do we work? What is the full measure of our moral and social responsibility?” The panelists assembled here will offer a range of answers on these questions and will open a discussion of how young scientists today can imagine their futures as part of a progressive movement to build a science for the people.

Below are my remarks (starting minute 51:33, followed by the transcript), which focused on the work environment young scientists and engineers--crippled by student debt--are entering, and how we might tackle the power dynamics that continue to perpetuate social injustice and ecological degradation.