Each month, we highlight a AAAS member who is a force for science. To find out how you can be a force for science, visit www.forceforscience.org.
Divyansh Kaushik is a master’s student at Carnegie Mellon University in the Language Technologies Institute inside the School of Computer Science. He works in the field of Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, where he studies building ML and NLP algorithms to help combat issues such as Human Trafficking and the Opioid Epidemic. He is also the Director of Communications for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (Northeast Region). He loves sports and is a passionate Manchester United and Pittsburgh Penguins supporter.
Share a story from your past that led to your interest in science advocacy.
Before I joined Carnegie Mellon, I read about Pittsburgh’s resurgence from a city which was dying of its air to a city that is leading the advances in artificial intelligence, leading the charge against climate change. Scientific research coming out of CMU and Pitt has changed this city. That was something that brought my interests in science and policy closer. I wanted to help bridge the divide between AI researchers and policymakers so we could help the society on even more fronts than just smart cities.
What contact have you had with your representatives?
I have visited my representatives in DC where we discussed issues affecting scientific research, besides that I have been actively involved in calling their offices and presenting my views on any upcoming votes that affect me or the scientific community in general. I have had contact with city representatives at various townhalls and also at the March for Science. Once I even got a city issue affecting graduate students resolved through social media by tweeting to the mayor’s chief of staff.
What advice do you have for those who’d like to get started advocating for science?
My advice would be to get involved with an organization, your university’s science policy group, AAAS, ESEP, etc., and stay up-to-date on what is going on regarding issues that are of concern to you. Call your representatives, visit them in town-halls, visit their local office if not DC and put forward your views on those issues.
What science advocacy activity are you most proud of?
I would say the last time I visited DC during the CASE workshop. DC was right in the middle of snowstorm Toby, but we still made it to the Capitol. We had a meeting with the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. We also met with our Congressional Representative Mike Doyle. We made our case regarding various issues including open access to federally funded research (how taxpayers are effectively paying twice for the same research, once by funding it followed by libraries paying for access to it), we raised our concerns regarding the president's proposed budget cuts to non-defense spending for FY19, and we also discussed issues specific to graduate students. I learned a lot during my time attending the workshop and the following day on the capitol and made some new friends in the process. Even though I was already engaged in policy with CMU's Graduate Student Assembly and External Affairs committee, I came back even more motivated — I ran for election to the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) Northeast Regional Board and was elected as the director of communications. I think I had the seed planted in me, but attending the CASE workshop provided it the right environment to flourish into a plant.
If you could pick one scientist (living or dead) to have dinner with, who would it be and why?
It’s a tough choice but it will be either Allen Newell or Herbert Simon. Newell and Simon worked together to create Logic Theorist which is often called “the first Artificial Intelligence program” and I would like to hear all about it first-hand.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are those of the AAAS member and are not necessarily the opinions of AAAS, its officers, general members, and/or AAAS MemberCentral department or staff.