|The campaign to Revitalize Federal Support for Science Technology was launched by Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW, the labor union for research and teaching assistants at Columbia University. Inspired in part by the campaigns of University of Washington and University of California postdoctoral researcher unions to roll back sequester cuts on research, we’re joining together with intellectual workers across the nation to compel our leaders to look to the future.
We want to urge our government to increase STEM research funding which will help Harvard University flourish. Please click the link below and sign onto the petition to urge presidential candidates to increase STEM research funding.
When we act collectively we have power, not only in our workplaces, but also in our political voice.
Non-defense STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) research funding has now been stagnant for a decade, after decades of growth under administrations of both parties (see this overview by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, especially Figure 1).
Funding grants are declining in many research fields—and only a few years ago, American research was threatened with deep sequester cuts. Early-career scientists face increasingly impossible academic job markets and heavily over-subscribed research facilities as they look to their future careers, even at this critical juncture in history when society faces so many scientific and technological challenges.
A recent white-paper draft revealed a steady decline in funding proposal success rates in astrophysics, with vast stretches of astronomers’ paid time spent on top-quality but unsuccessful grant proposals. The authors state that they “are concerned that we have reached a tipping point where the health and vitality of the community cannot be sustained.”
This pattern is mirrored in biomedical research, as described here by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).
(Image credit: FASEB, with permission)
Federally-supported research is one of the foundations of our economy. Federal appropriations are a critical component of the nation’s place at the vanguard of science and technology, and with this campaign, launched by the union of graduate workers at Columbia University, intellectual workers are uniting to restore growth to these ambitious and (above all) necessary endeavors.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the petition going to?
We will send this petition to all 2016 presidential nominees, regardless of what party they’re from, to urge them to make increasing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) funding a public and prominent part of their campaign platforms. And to our representatives and senators in Congress who sit on important committees that make funding decisions.
Who can sign the petition?
All graduate students, postdocs, researchers, professors, etc. working in the United States (or working for a U.S. institution) in any field (humanities too!), and all researchers working in a government or non-profit lab. We’re not targeting undergrads, though undergrad researchers are welcome to sign.
I am an international student; can I sign the petition?
YES. One of the greatest powers we have as a union is to act collectively and the union can provide you with a political voice on issues you care about.
Do I have to support the union to sign?
No. The petition is to support the critical need for increased research funding.
While our main goal is to re-establish collective bargaining, like grads at NYU, being organized as a union also allows us to take on efforts like this on issues that matter to us, so that academics have a political voice. If you’re not sure about the union, I’m really happy to talk more about that so we can address some of your concerns—but signing your name to this just means that you support the text of the petition. Even if we disagree on other issues, we can definitely agree on this one!
Who has endorsed the petition?
The petition has so far been endorsed by the: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the nation’s largest coalition of biomedical researchers; American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society; American Statistical Association; Mathematical Association of America; and Consortium for Ocean Leadership.
We continue to reach out to more societies. Are you a part of a society that you could reach out to?
I thought science and technology was funded really well by the government. / Why does this matter to me?
Non-defense STEM funding has stayed stagnant for a decade, after decades of growth under administrations of both parties. Funding grants are declining in many research fields—and only a few years ago, STEM funding was threatened with deep sequester cuts. Grad students and postdocs face increasingly impossible academic job markets as they look to their future careers. At this point in history, with existential scientific and technological problems like climate change and energy independence on the horizon, and so much potential to learn more, from new cures for diseases to telescopes looking for the origins of our world and universe, declines in funding and a horrible job market for the next generation of researchers are avoidable mistakes.
Will this petition really work (how will this work)?
Collective action works, and a mass petition from academics, speaking with one voice, can change the political dialogue. We’ll deliver the petition to candidates sometime early in 2016 and meet with our congressional representatives; we have avenues to their campaign staffers through our own contacts, and some of the societies endorsing the campaign also have contacts they’re planning to marshal for us.
What will my whiteboard (photo) be used for?
Your whiteboard will help put a face to the urgency on why we need to revitalize STEM funding now – the photo will be used to show our politicians that we care deeply about this issue and why. It will be posted on the stemfunding.org website and possibly shared on social media.