AAAS CEO to Young Scientists: “Speak Up. Keep Focused. Carry On.”

Many young scientists attend AAAS’ annual meetings and the one held in Washington, D.C. earlier this year was no different in being a draw for early-career scientists across scientific disciplines. | AAAS/Atlantic Photo

In the wake of the presidential election, AAAS CEO Rush Holt acknowledged the concerns of young scientists and engineers in an op-ed calling on them to “Speak up, keep calm and carry on.”

Early-career scientists and engineers may be understandably apprehensive about change in Washington, particularly since “attention to science during the presidential campaign was neither appreciable nor appreciative,” wrote Holt for Motherboard. Still, he urged the next-generation of innovators not to despair.

“Science has faced challenges throughout history, from one administration to the next, but year in and year out it has led to human progress, enriching our culture by improving quality of life and human knowledge about our place in the universe,” Holt wrote.

The op-ed quoted Anna Scott, a Ph.D. student who works on climate and urban issues. In a recent survey, Scott described the presidential election as “nerve-wracking” and expressed concerns about her future career options. Holt acknowledged that the president-elect’s transition team recently issued an unusual request – which was subsequently disavowed -- for the names of employees who have attended conferences. Further, some 11,000 women scientists have signed a pledge to rally for inclusiveness in science.

Holt added, however, that “it always has been possible to find some bipartisan support for science,” and therefore “now is the time to build on that latent bipartisanship.”

Science “can be a bridge across partisan divides,” Holt argued. “The answer is not to draw inward, but rather, to confidently, respectfully and clearly explain the connection between scientific advancement and our economic progress, human well-being and national security.” Early-career scientists can prepare themselves by engaging with groups such as AAAS, which offers science communication training, opportunities for scientists and engineers to engage in policy and tools for catalyzing advocacy, Holt noted.

In summarizing his message to young scientists, Holt echoed the theme of a video released last week by AAAS. “Speak up,” he wrote. “Keep focused. Carry on.”