Foster’s bill aims to keep STEM graduates in U.S.

By ALEX ORTIZ | Joliet Herald-News | Oct. 7, 2019

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster is supporting legislation to provide lawful permanent residence status for certain advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics degree holders.

The Keep STEM Talent Act would allow graduates with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the country after their graduation, according to a news release.

“In order to compete in an increasingly global economy, we must expand our STEM workforce,” Foster said. “We should end restrictive policies that send STEM graduates back overseas to the detriment of our nation. These students can use their talents to strengthen our economy and create American jobs – we should work on creating a pathway to citizenship.”

The legislation would also remove barriers for STEM-educated international students who want to work in the U.S.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, introduced the legislation with Foster. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate. Foster and Johnson introduced the bill in the House of Representatives last week, according to the release.

“America must maintain a strong STEM workforce to help us compete in the global economy,” Durbin said. “When we deny international students with advanced STEM degrees from American universities a chance to continue their work in our country, their talents are sent back overseas to our competitors after we’ve already invested in their educations.”

Rep. Bill Foster latest House Democrat to support Trump impeachment inquiry

By Lynn Sweet

WASHINGTON — After wrestling with a decision over the past months and listening to constituents, Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday he supports a Trump impeachment inquiry — which for all practical purposes is being conducted by the House Judiciary Committee.

“I spent a lot of time listening to my constituents on this,” Foster said. He called his decision a “multidimensional calculation” because of the various factors involved.

Foster said voters in his suburban Chicago 11th District told him that they are concerned President Donald Trump is trying to “enrich himself and that, I found, is a very significant factor with a surprising number of my constituents.

“And I do see that it weighs pretty heavily with me. If you just look at the way he was shamelessly pitching his property in Florida as a potential site for the next G-7,” Foster said, a reference to Trump saying he wants the group of international leaders to meet next year at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

“To my mind, looks to be a clear violation of the emoluments clause and the amount of money that’s at stake here seems non-trivial enough to quickly get the attention of Congress. And so there’s a long list of things here. Each one of which deserve, I believe, an inquiry into whether or not they should become an article of impeachment,” Foster said.

Foster is the 11th member of the Illinois congressional delegation to announce explicit support for an impeachment inquiry; the state sends 13 Democrats and five Republicans to the House.

The two other Illinois Democrats in the House, Reps. Cheri Bustos and Dan Lipinski, are following more closely the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and have more cautious positions, with a bottom line for both that they back the Trump-related investigations being conducted by five committees, including the House Judiciary panel.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is pursuing an investigation “into obstruction, corruption and abuse of power by Trump and his associates” in order to “determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against the President.”

A House vote to impeach Trump does not mean he would be removed from office. The next step would be a Senate trial, and with the Republicans in control, it is highly unlikely that Trump would be convicted.

During the August summer recess, more House Democrats have been speaking out in support of an impeachment inquiry. With Foster, and based on an NBC count, at least 134 House Democrats back an impeachment inquiry, more than half of the 235 Democrats in the House.

Pelosi is urging Democrats to proceed with caution, even as she supports the various investigative efforts of all the House panels.

“To protect our democracy and our Constitution, Democrats in the Congress continue to legislate, investigate and litigate,” she has said, pledging to hold Trump “accountable.”

Foster is a member of one of the House panels probing Trump, the House Financial Services Committee.

“I’ve also witnessed firsthand Trump’s unconstitutional refusal to cooperate with the investigations we are having on the Financial Services Committee,” Foster said, related to financial dealings of the president and the Trump Organization.

Lipinski, explaining his position, said, “The House should continue its oversight and Members should determine the best way forward based on the facts of the investigations.

“While I agree with Speaker Pelosi that we don’t need and should not have an official ‘impeachment inquiry’ vote in the House at this time, I have been and continue to be in support of the investigative work that is being done in the House committees.

“Right now, I think the best way to remove President Trump from office is voting him out in the 2020 election. This may change as the work of House committees continue, but if the House impeached the president now, it could backfire because the president would be able to say that he was persecuted by the Democratic House but exonerated by the Senate,” Lipinski said.

A spokesman for Bustos, Sean Higgins, said her “latest thinking is she is going to let the committees do their job of constitutionally mandated oversight.” As for Nadler’s probe, “she supports the Judiciary Committee doing its job.”

RELEASE: Over Two Dozen Democratic Leaders Endorse Bill Foster for Congress

NAPERVILLE, IL –Today, Foster for Congress announced the endorsement of numerous local Democratic Party officials in the 11th Congressional District. Foster, a scientist and businessman who was first elected to Congress in the district once held by disgraced Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, has represented the 11th district since 2013.

“I’m honored to receive the support of so many great Democratic leaders for my bid to continue to serve the 11th district. Now, more than ever with President Trump in the White House, we need facts, reason, and the truth to get our country back on track,” said Foster.

Will County Board Members Speaker Denise Winfrey (District 8), Majority Leader Mark Ferry (District 13), Majority Whip Tyler Marcum (District 10), Reverend Herb Brooks (District 8), Mimi Cowan (District 11), Jacqueline Traynere (District 4), Margaret Tyson (District 3), and Joe Van Duyne (District 6), all endorsed Foster’s campaign.

Local elected leaders are also standing will Bill Foster, including State Senator Laura Ellman (IL-21), State Senator Linda Holmes (IL-42), State Representative Barbara Hernandez (IL-83), State Representative Natalie Manley (IL-98), State Representative Larry Walsh Jr. (IL-86), Illinois 11th Congressional District Democratic State Central Committeewoman Julia Beckman, Illinois 11th Congressional District Democratic State Central Committeeman Duffy Blackburn, Will County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., Bolingbrook Village Trustee Bob Jaskiewicz, and Fox Valley Park District Commissioner Mavis Bates.

Democrats heaped praise on Foster for his ability to bring a scientist and business approach to solving problems.

I am very proud of Congressman Foster for his leadership he has shown in Washington on the minimum wage, condemning recent remarks from the White House, and his continued efforts for health care,” said Reverend and Will County Board Member Herb Brooks. “I encourage others to join me in endorsing Congressman Bill Foster to represent us in the 11th Congressional District Of Illinois and continue the fight for justice for all.”

“Bill Foster has a proven record battling for education and research of science and technology,” emphasized Democratic State Central Committeeman Duffy Blackburn. “Here in Will County and across America, we need forward thinking representatives like Bill Foster who are committed to solving the great challenges ahead.”

Finally, local Democratic Party leaders are also standing with Foster. Jeff Boetto (Chairman, Troy Township Democrats), Kevin Clancy (Chairman, Plainfield Township Democratic Organization), Greg Elsbree (Chairman, Aurora Township Democrats), Ken Griffin (Chairman, Lockport Township Democrats), Nora Gruenberg (Chairwoman, New Lenox Township Democrats), Nick Palmer (Chairman, Wheatland Township Democrats), Kim Savage (Chairwoman, Downers Grove Township Democrats), and Bill Thoman (Chairman, Will County Democratic Central Committee), all announced their endorsement.

“I gladly endorse Congressman Bill Foster for the 11th U.S. Congressional District,” said Plainfield Township Democratic Organization Chairman Kevin Clancy. “Bill has always been accessible as my representative and he has been extremely supportive of both the Will County Democratic Party and the Plainfield Township Democratic Organization.”

Foster’s wide swath of support throughout the 11th district make him a formidable candidate to win the nomination of 11th District Democrats.


Foster ‘proud’ to vote for DREAM Act to protect migrants

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, called his vote for a bill to provide legal status for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children one of his proudest moments in Congress.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act was originally filed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, in 2001, but has never been passed, although it’s been brought up multiple times in subsequent congressional sessions.

On Tuesday, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed the latest iteration of the bill, the American Dream and Promise Act.

The legislation would provide a pathway to citizenship for more than 100,000 immigrants in Illinois, including more than 42,000 so-called DREAMers.

“I’ve been fighting every way I can to make the DREAM Act a reality,” Foster said. “These are patriotic Americans who deserve our support.”

Still, the legislation is unlikely to be voted on in the Republican-controlled Senate, which, according to Foster, is evidence of a broken system.

He said a bill like this nets support from the majority of Americans and would get bipartisan support in the Senate if it were called up for a vote.

Foster also said that he would like any Senator willing to vote against it to ask if “they’re really doing anything to help our democracy work better.”

“Simply put, we are a better nation because of them, and I am proud to represent communities like Aurora, Joliet, Bolingbrook and Naperville, where immigrants are welcomed and diversity is celebrated,” Foster said.

Federal News Network: A NIST official subtly breaks with administration budget detail

By Tom Temin

As the cherry blossoms fade and the muggy Washington summer approaches, the federal budget hearings have cranked up. Those for big departments make the cable TV shows because committee members are sometimes less interested in the federal budget than in some political bone to pick with the secretary. But what about at components, like, say, the National Institute of Standards and Technology?

Yes, the budget process is broken. Yes, the government will likely head into 2020 under a continuing resolution. Yes, the growing debt will get lip service here and there but no real attention.

Yet at the more granular level, the federal budget does receive serious attention and debate. And in one back-and-forth, tacit agreement for a plus-up between a Democratic congressman and an appointee of a Republican administration.

A hearing on the NIST budget, conducted by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s subcommittee on research and technology showed possibilities different from the norm. NIST, for its outsize influence and support, consumes a trivial part of federal spending. It’s proposing $686 million for 2020. It’ll probably end up getting more, considering it has bipartisan support and was appropriated something to the tune of $1.1 billion as late as 2016.

In laying out the priorities for its research and grant-making, NIST Director Walter Copan named quantum computing, microelectronics, artificial intelligence, 5G communications and advanced manufacturing. Obvious initiatives for the mission of supporting U.S. competitiveness, they were also recited by members of the subcommittee.

In the pleasant exchanges, it came out from Illinois Democrat Bill Foster that NIST proposes to close the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence. It happens to live “near” Foster’s district, so there’s that familiar parochial concern. But Foster had a larger point, namely that if so much manufacturing advancement comes from advances in material science, why close it? It only costs about $15 million, he pointed out. It supports development in metals, polymers and biological materials.

Foster asked Copan a fair question: “Do you view these as unimportant technologies?”

Copan replied that the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence has been an “absolutely outstanding example” of public-private partnership. It’s materials genome initiative has delivered “tremendous value,” he said, by showing how artificial intelligence can speed new materials development. But, he said, a bit lamely,  “difficult decisions needed to be made.”

Foster then asked whether the abrupt closure of such an apparently successful program “does violence to attitudes of the incoming workforce.”

Copan came back with a curious reply: Those employees and potential employees, he said, “look forward to the hard work of this committee to make sure the right choices are ultimately made, and that the long term strategic goals of this nation are ultimately addressed, regardless of administration, regardless of political cycle, to ensure that American leadership is secured.”

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but this and a similar, subsequent exchanges sounded to me as if Copan was signaling the subcommittee to please, go ahead and put back the money for the center of excellence.

In fact, Foster then said, “I’m pretty sure I can read between the lines of what you’re saying. We’re on your side in this. I just wish you luck in all your negotiations upwards in the org chart.”

Whoa, a crack between a mid-level operative in the Trump administration and a relatively junior representative from the opposite party? Yes, but that’s not the whole story.

From their biographies, neither Copan nor Foster are scientific slouches. They both hold PhDs, Copan in chemistry from Case Western Reserve University and Foster in physics from Harvard. Both have distinguished scientific backgrounds. So, while the hearing included some inter-party exchange, it also included a debate with a wink between peers in a realm outside of politics.

My two cents: Advances in material science enable or lie at the heart of countless advances in technology and industry. Yeah, $15 million doesn’t seem like a bad investment.

Earther: America’s Government Scientists Are Eyeing a Future in Politics

By Maddie Stone

PHILADELPHIA—As the Trump administration continues to attack science, scientists continue to push back, whether by joining rallies and strikes or running for office. In the next election cycle, the ranks of those choosing the latter route may include more federal government scientists, a group that has traditionally preferred to remain out of the spotlight.

That, at least, is one takeaway from a training event held in Philadelphia last week by 314 Action, a political group that trains and recruits scientists running for office as Democrats. One of several trainings sessionsthe organization is hosting this year to inform and recruit potential candidatesfor the 2020 elections, its attendees included the usual mix of researchers, engineers, and doctors from academia, industry, and private sector. But a handful of scientists who hold or have held government positions also came out in what the organization suspects may be the start of a new trend.

“It’s definitely a trend we’re seeing more and more,” 314 Action Executive Director Josh Morrow told Earther. Asked why that might be the case, he had a simple answer: “They’re tired of being on the sidelines watching federal research budgets being decimated.”

Indeed, the Trump administration has now repeatedly proposed slashing federal research budgets from medicine to clean energy. It has also worked to sideline scientific expertise, most notably within the Environmental Protection Agency where expert advisory boards have been stocked with industry shills or eliminated, and where former chief Scott Pruitt set in motion an effort to restrict the scientific studies that can be used in decision making. Then there’s climate change, which Pruitt wasn’t a big believer in and which his successor, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, doesn’t seem too concerned about either.

And that’s just one agency. Elsewhere in the federal government, scientists are reporting a dip in the effectiveness of their divisions and that they’re seeing censorship of discussions on climate change, according to a 2018 survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists. All of this could help explain why some bureaucrats are now at least considering whether their technical expertise, deep understanding of federal budgets, and experience working at the science-policy nexus could be better used crafting policies rather than implementing them.

Those weighing such considerations include a Department of Energy policy expert who has worked on climate change initiatives, and an Environmental Protection Agency scientist, currently in the Office of Air and Radiation, who has previously worked on regulations pertaining to concentrated animal feeding operations and drinking water. Both of these scientists were at the recent 314 Action training session but requested anonymity because they haven’t formally announced a candidacy and were concerned that speaking on record about the possibility could jeopardize their jobs.

Others with prior government experience also attended, including Marian Keegan, who worked as a forester for the U.S. Forest Service in the 1990s before moving to the private sector. A progressive Democrat living in rural, northeast Pennsylvania, she’s gearing up to run for the state House of Representatives in 2020, in a district that’s gone Republican for a century. “It’s a voting pattern I’m going to have to break,” she said jokingly.

Keegan says she was motivated to run in part by the environmental rollbacks of the Trump administration and how they’re affecting rural America. “It concerns me that the gains we’ve made in protecting our environment are being eroded,” she said, adding that it takes “specific skills to live sustainably” in her heavily-forested district. Keegan plans to make protecting northeast Pennsylvania’s water quality—ever threatened by fracking—as well as forest management and property taxes central issues of her campaign, and she’s hoping her government experience bringing together stakeholders to solve contentious land issues will give her an edge.

Another scientist at the training, Harvard Medical SchoolPhD candidate Naren Tallapragada, is considering running for office in the future in part because of his experience working for the DOE on the Quadrennial Technology Review—a document that surveyed the department’s investments in energy technologies and set priorities for the coming years—in the summer of 2011. This, coupled with an internship on Capitol Hill with Virginia Senator Mark Warner during the same summer, taught Tallapragada that “politics is really important [and] it’s native to think that science trumps all politics.”

“The solution is not to despair, the solution is to try and get involved and do something about it yourself,” said Tallapragada.

Congressman Bill Foster, who was until this year the only science PhD in Congress, said that scientists withfederal government experience have important and unique perspectives to contribute to policymaking. “They come into politics with a much better knowledge of the federal budget procedures,” Foster told Earther. “This is the battle we cannot lose in science.”

Foster said the wave of candidates with a scientific background who won elections in 2018 has made him feel “less lonely.” And he would welcome more of them in the next election cycle, whether those scientists are from academia, industry, or government. At the same time, Foster worries about the fact that more scientists seem to be leaving their jobs in governmentbecause of the anti-science attitudes of the Trump administration.

“There is no substitute for having high quality technical people not only in US Congress but also the federal workforce,” Foster said.

Daily Herald: Suburban Democrats call for release of full Mueller report

By Lauren Rohr

Suburban Democrats are calling for the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report after receiving a summary of the investigation Sunday that clears President Donald Trump of collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.

Mueller’s probe did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, Attorney General William Barr said in a four-page letter to Congress. Though the report did not determine the president committed a crime, he said, it also did not exonerate him.

The uncertainty in Mueller’s findings makes it all the more important for Congress — and the public — to review the full report, subject to the redaction of any sensitive materials, said U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat. If the documents are not released, he said, lawmakers would need to examine the possibility of subpoenaing the report and speaking with Mueller directly, “hopefully through a voluntary interview.”

“What are they holding back from us? Why are we not able to see the full report and the underlying documents?” said Krishnamoorthi, who sits on the House’s Intelligence and Oversight committees. “The American people paid for the report. They should be able to see it as soon as possible.”

U.S. Reps. Bill Foster of Naperville and Mike Quigley of Chicago echoed Krishnamoorthi’s sentiments in statements Sunday, saying the full report and underlying data should be made available with minimal redactions.

“A four-page summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s report isn’t going to cut it,” said Quigley, who also serves on the House Intelligence Committee. “Our ability to continue carrying out our ongoing oversight and counterintelligence investigations requires us to make our own determinations of the evidence, not rely solely on Barr’s conclusions.”

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood of Naperville agreed, saying, “We deserve more information and transparency than we have received.”

Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Channahon, whose 16th District includes Boone and DeKalb counties and a portion of Will County, issued a statement over social media calling the report “good news” for our democracy and the integrity of our elections.

“No collusion, no coordination, no reason for Congressional Democrats to keep up this divisive and outrageous attempts to mislead Americans and discredit the President of the United States,” he said. “Now it’s time for us to move forward as a nation and return our focus to the important issues facing Americans today.”

According to Barr’s letter, Mueller did not find evidence that anyone associated with the Trump campaign knowingly conspired with the Russian government in efforts to interfere with the 2016 election. Krishnamoorthi said reviewing the full report will help the public understand what led Mueller to make that determination.

“I’m very much hoping that we can bring as much transparency to what has attracted intense public interest, and I hope that the attorney general cooperates with us in bringing this transparency as soon as possible,” Krishnamoorthi said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a statement that Barr’s summary “creates more questions than it answers,” particularly regarding the concerns over whether Trump obstructed justice.

“The American people — who for two years have waited patiently for the Mueller investigation to conclude — deserve the full truth in Special Counsel Mueller’s own words,” he said.

Foster Statement on J.B. Pritzker’s Inauguration

Today is a new and exciting day for all citizens of Illinois. I congratulate Governor Pritzker on his inauguration and look forward to seeing all the great things his administration will do for our state. The budget crisis eroded the confidence that citizens of Illinois should have in their government, and too many people suffered when the state government failed to make good on their promises to the elderly and students. I am confident that JB will help get our state back on the right track by creating new jobs and making Illinois a place where everyone will have access to opportunities for a better future.

Daily Herald: Foster wins over Stella in 11th Congressional District race


Naperville Democrat Bill Foster will retain his 11th Congressional District seat after a convincing win over Republican challenger Nick Stella.

Foster returns to Congress for his fourth term as one of the most vocal suburban critics of the Trump presidency. Foster coasted to re-election with 140,538 votes, according to unofficial results from 467 of 468 precincts reporting in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties. Stella, a 49-year-old Darien cardiologist, received 80,355 votes.

Foster, 62, has stressed his experience as a particle physicist, sharply rebuking the Trump administration’s appointments at the Environmental Protection Agency, regulatory rollbacks on coal plants and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

“When you leave science as the basis for environmental protection, I think you’re going off the tracks, and we’ve seen that again and again,” Foster said during the campaign.

Foster celebrated with his supporters in Naperville, saying he was “very gratified” at his re-election.

In the next session of Congress, Foster vows to oppose cuts to scientific research and wants to seriously consider a Medicare buy-in for people in their 50s. He doesn’t endorse a “Medicare for All” plan championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats to have a government-run system cover all Americans.

The Stella campaign made headlines across the pond for a social media ad with an old photo of a dilapidated street in an English village and the message “Help President Trump keep America on track and thriving.”

Scientific American: Scientist-Politicians Go Local: From Lab Bench to a Deep Bench

By David S. Rauf

On his way from Princeton University to the New Jersey state capitol building in Trenton a few weeks ago, Andrew Zwicker was noticeably amped. Zwicker is the head of scientific education at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, but he was en route to his other job: state lawmaker. He was excited because he was about to make a presentation about policy using a toy-size plastic car. “I can’t imagine any lawmaker has ever done this before,” he says.

The New Jersey Legislature’s Science, Technology and Innovation Committee was holding a hearing about fuel-cell technology, and Zwicker is committee chair. Once in the hearing room, he pulled out his model automobile, which, equipped with a water tank and set of wires, runs on hydrogen. Zwicker, the only PhD scientist in the legislature, dove into an explanation about splitting water molecules to produce energy capable of powering a vehicle, and then he let the model zoom across a desk. Later he posted a video of the demo online with the hashtag #TodayWasAGoodDayForScience.

On the verge of Election Day in the U.S. a political movement focused on getting scientists into public office is hoping that results at the polls will lead to more scenes like this one at state houses, city councils and school boards across the country, not just at a federal level. At least 70 scientist–candidates launched bids for office at the state and local level this election cycle, most of them first-time campaigners and part of a record wave of scientists bucking a long-established penchant to avoid the political arena. Organizers hope this will become a deep bench of up-and-coming policy makers with science and technology backgrounds who might contest for higher office in years to come. Or many may stay local, because those jobs are usually part-time and allow researchers to maintain careers that were their first passion.

“I’ve had conversations with scientists from all over the country who call or write and ask, ‘How did you do it?’” says Zwicker, who was reelected last year. “We’re at a critical stage, and I have no doubt we’re going to see more and more scientists running for public office.” The surge is rooted deeper than a reaction to the Trump administration’s anti-science policies that began in 2017. It is a longer-term response to years of contempt for facts and evidence-based decisions on Capitol Hill and in state houses of government.

Running for Congress, however, requires a deep-pocketed network and the backing of established political machinery—both qualities most scientists aspiring to be politicians tend to lack at the start. That is why a sustainable movement will require building from the ground up, says U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Democrat from Illinois and a physicist. “There have been some great candidates emerging recently,” he says. “The main effect of what’s happening now may show up in five or 15 years when a lot of the people who have won at the local level and the state level decide to run at the congressional and Senate level.”

For Jasmine Clark, a microbiologist and lecturer at Emory Universitycompeting for a state house seat in a district about 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta, the decision to run for office was not difficult. But she says there has been a steep learning curve, including figuring out how to craft a message to sell herself to voters. On the campaign trail, though her flyers include a drawing of an atom, she says some people “could care less that I’m a scientist, so most of the time I don’t harp too much on the science part. But when I say things like we need to get back to facts, they all agree with that.”

Clark, a Democrat, ran unopposed in the primary but is now facing an entrenched incumbent with more money and name recognition, a prospect that makes her an underdog in the general election. “To me, this almost feels like a trial run or practice,” she says. “But if I don’t win I know what to do better next time.”

The microbiologist is one of roughly 70 state and local STEM candidates endorsed by 314 Action, a nonprofit and political advocacy group named after the first three digits of Pi. With a war chest of several million dollars, the group is spending its money to train, recruit and support scientists, doctors, engineers and techies. Although most of 314 Action’s money this cycle will go toward a field of endorsed federal candidates, in the future the group wants to put more cash into local races “where a lot of the action on climate, education and health care issues are going to come from,” says Shaughnessy Naughton, 314 Action’s founder and a former breast cancer researcher.

Naughton says 314 Action has heard from about 7,000 people with STEM backgrounds interested in running for office. But “to run for Congress, that’s a full-time job,” she says, speaking from personal experience: She tried it herself, twice, and lost both times. But local races “are much more manageable races in terms of the scope. This is that first step to show you can bring people onboard with you,” she notes.

To reach those people, hobnobbing and working a crowd are musts, and not all scientists do those things well, says Valerie Horsley, a molecular biologist at Yale University, who ran unsuccessfully for state senate in Connecticut earlier this year. “I had people tell me ‘you have to go into the room and start shaking hands.’ That was terrifying. Scientists tend to be hunkered in their own world,” she says. “There are skills like that you have to gain to be on the same playing field as some of the other people that are running.”

Horsley adds she is not ruling out another state or local campaign, but running for Congress is not in her future. Federal lawmakers do not hold outside jobs when in office, and for the biologist that is a big problem. “There’s still some things I would still like to do in the scientific world,” she says.

Needing to choose between a career in science and a full-time gig in public service is one of the main reasons more STEM candidates do not run for elected office, says Kevork Abazajian, an astrophysicist and director of the Center for Cosmology at the University of California, Irvine. He is running for an at-large seat on the Irvine City Council, and says that splitting his time between university duties and voter canvassing and fundraising events is currently manageable. But it would be different if he were vying for higher office. “It is more of a challenge for scientists to put off their profession to run,” he says. “One way to try it out is at the municipal level and see what it’s like to run and serve. If it bodes well, they can go on to the state legislature or beyond.”