Very few elected officials in America have professional training in science or technology. Does this inhibit the effective governance of science and technology?
Congress has 535 members in which most are lawyers and career politicians. Of the 535 members, only 47 have a background in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and medical; of that 47, only 21 are solely STEM background (Nekuda 2019). That means that only STEM backgrounds only account for 4% of the votes for laws. With all the rules that are needed to protect and govern science and technology, individuals that understand technology need to have a more significant presence in government. The lack of experience in the STEM field leaves may lawmakers at the hands of lobbyist groups feeding them correct are false information, which inhabits their effectiveness to govern something they do not fully understand.
Do you think that the American government would be substantially different if most senators and congresspersons previously worked and scientists or engineers instead of lawyers, as is the case today?
There would be a significant change in today’s political climate if there were a considerable increase of members in Congress having a background in STEM, but I don’t believe it would be a good change. With everything you need balance, if Congress were overhauled with all members from STEM priorities would shift to a more science agenda. Congress’s goal is to meet be a representation of their states and district people, which I believe needs diverse backgrounds. Having congress members from all fields would help bring new ideas and commonalities.
Should it be a requirement to serve on science and technology committees?
With everything revolving with technology and science, there should be a requirement for these committees. At the least to gain a better understanding of what bill you are proposing or stopping. For example, everyone to take a computer class in high school now to graduate, not everyone in high school is going to grow up and work with computers. Still, it is there to give you a foundation of a technology that is going to be used in the everyday world. With that being said, how long ago did some of these career politicians go to school? I am sure much has changed since they graduated, it could only benefit them to stay on top of emerging science and technology because they are the ones creating the laws to regulate and fund those said technologies and sciences.
Find an example of a piece of legislation or political movement that was wrongly founded on the misunderstanding of basic science and technology. Give a brief background. Should this movement/bill been supported or unsupported?
I recently saw “Dark Waters,” it’s a true story about a company who created a chemical PFAS for the military. PFAS chemical would repeal water for military vehicles, the company DuPont eventually started putting the chemical in everything to include gum wrappers to Teflon pans (NYU, 2020). The government has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help regulate what chemicals are safe and which are banned. The EPA gross negligence, lack of understanding of chemical science, and politics led to this dangerous chemical being leaked into the water system as well as used in many items on military bases. PFAS has been linked to causing cancer and contaminating water. In 2019 Congress passed laws to regulate this chemical but not enough; some of the regulations included; protect drinking water from PFAS ACT, PFAS right to know, PFAS accountability, and a few others. One of these new regulations included banning PFAS chemicals in packaging for military field food rations after October 1, 2021 (Lustgarten, 2018). As you can see, the lack of a complete understanding of these toxic chemicals has congress members not acting fast enough.
How will this continue to affect our country’s rank in science and technological development in the future, should this model of governance continue?
Until there is an adequate representation of the STEM community and a firm understanding of technology and science, I feel like Congress will always be one step behind, and continue to play catch up. You see this in the privacy field; Congress did not know how much Facebook was able to track and collect on their users. It was not until something that they took action and started regulating.
Lustgarten, A., (2018, July 9). How the EPA and the Pentagon Downplayed a Growing Toxic Threat Retrieved from https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-epa-and-the-pentagon-downplayed-toxic-pfas-chemicals (Links to an external site.)
Nekuda Malik, J., (2019, February). US 116th Congress sets new record for members with STEM backgrounds Retrieved from
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/mrs-bulletin/article/us-116th-congress-sets-new-record-for-members-with-stem-backgrounds/6BAADCDA3CAB1925EEA62FDACF24F7C4/core-reader (Links to an external site.)
NYU School of Law (2020, January 17). PFAS Federal Legislation