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Ballot Watch: Fellows in the Running

Currently there are only two Members of Congress who hold doctorates in physical, biological, natural, or mathematical sciences. While some others are engineers or medical professionals, there is a dearth of scientific and technical expertise among America’s legislators.

The arguments for elected representatives with scientific and technical backgrounds are familiar: we need advocates for the adequate funding of scientific research, and policymakers with training in the sciences and engineering are needed to help formulate evidence-based policies around major issues – many of which, from climate change to health recommendations, are rooted firmly in the S&T realm.

“Members of Congress are good at talking about things they aren’t experts in, except for science. That’s dangerous,” said AAAS CEO and STPF alumnus Rush Holt in the Wall Street Journal (1/5/2015).

Is there hope for more S&T knowledge in Congress? The answer will be revealed next November. Two STPF alumni fellowsare in races for congressional seats.

Katie McGinty 2015

Katie McGinty video still (

Democrat Katie McGinty, 1989-90 Congressional Fellow sponsored by the American Chemical Society, made an unsuccessful bid for Pennsylvania governor last year. As the ninth of 10 children and a high school valedictorian, she thrives on challenge and is now running for the U.S. Senate for Pennsylvania.

In a campaign video, McGinty says she is running “because [she] wants to stand with the middle class and fight for families who are working hard to get ahead.”

Democrat John Plumb, 2004-05 Congressional Fellow sponsored by the Institute of Navigation, is taking aim for the seat of the 23rd Congressional District in New York.

John Plumb 2015

John Plumb at the podium. | Friends of John Plumb

Before his fellowship, Plumb received a doctorate in aerospace engineering and served six years in the Navy. He says the fellowship “irrevocably changed [his] life.” In the office of then-Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO), he focused on science, energy, and military issues. Then, he served for four years in the Pentagon and two years at the National Security Council working on defense policy.

“Throughout the last ten years, I have increasingly appreciated the value of the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship program and have experienced first-hand the need for more science and engineering expertise in the upper echelons of government – including the Congress,” Plumb wrote in an August email to STPF alumni.

Plumb, similar to McGinty, puts working families front and center. “Year after year, our middle class and working families find it harder and harder to get ahead…. I will work with representatives regardless of party on the issues that matter most, so we can finally get some real results for our region’s rural communities” (John Plumb for Congress website).