This is part of a series highlighting people and organizations who are changing the status quo of science. This week we spoke with Christin Glorioso, postdoc at MIT and co-founder of both MIT Think Tank, and Academics for the Future of Science (AFS).
MIT Think Tank harnesses the knowledge and creativity of people across different departments at MIT and uses multi-disciplinary collaboration to solve a range of real-world problems. As well as being co-founder, Christin was a team leader on one of the Think Tank projects. That project turned into Academics for the Future of Science, a science policy group which makes it quick and easy for scientists and science supporters to tell their government representatives about the importance of scientific research.
“It was a three-month project, now it’s in its fourth year,” Christin said. “The project was originally supposed to be about science funding, which has been decreasing in the US for a number of years. This has had a huge impact on early career researchers. We were trying to understand the origins of the problem and were looking at alternative ways to solve it, crowdfunding, for example. We found out that a number of things probably weren’t going to work, like crowdfunding. All the money Kickstarter has ever raised is a tiny fraction of NIH funding. The scale was so much bigger that we realized.”
“A lot of people think that if science funding were totally cut, private companies or the public would step in to pay for it but the magnitude of the problem is too big. We realized that scientists need to have a bigger place in policy. That’s how we became a science policy group. A lot of organizations advocating for early career researchers have felt they had to keep out of politics. That means we’ve been losing out on funding and also on having the public connect with our work and understand what scientists do.”
One of AFS’s main goals is to change how people think about science advocacy. They are creating simple, fun, interactive tools that make it easy for people to understand science policy changes and tell their governments what they want to happen with science policy and funding.
The AFS website has an email tool that tells people who their representatives are and gives them a pre-written email they can send as is or tailor with personal stories. “Politicians pay more attention if emails are personalized,” Christin said. “One of the things we found out is that scientists love facts and figures but politicians love stories – sending them a bunch of graphs will do nothing but personal stories do a lot.”
“We have a minimalist advocacy policy,” Christin added. “We only ask people to send emails twice a year when it’s really important.”
AFS also has a map tracker so people can see how many emails have been sent from each state. These tools only work in the US for now but AFS would like to collaborate with groups from other countries to offer these tools around the world.
If you would like to get involved, you can check out their blog or use their email tool. They are also looking for AFS reps at every school across the US. “If we could get everyone to send two emails a year that would be amazing,” Christin said.
For more information on people and organizations advocating for scientists, join the Science Advocacy Network (it's free!).