Several years ago, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson lamented in a discussion with Bill Maher that the majority of congressmen have backgrounds in law and business, saying, "Where are the engineers? Where is the rest of life represented?"
That was 2011. Now, in 2018, more scientists than ever before are running for office all around the country, including more than 60 entering the race for federal offices.
At least 200 candidates with previous careers in science, technology, engineering and math announced bids for some of the nation’s roughly 7,000 state legislature seats as of Jan. 31, according to data that 314 Action, a political action committee, shared exclusively with HuffPost.
314 Action was founded in 2014 to help and encourage more men and women of science to run for political offices, and currently the organization has the ear of at least 500 individuals. A further 200 are running for school boards across the nation.
“The sheer number is really astonishing,” 314 Action founder Shaughnessy Naughton told HuffPost. “We’ve never seen anything like this.”
This is the largest number of scientists to run for public office in modern history. If any of them win, it could dramatically multiply the number of scientists in Congress beyond Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), the lone Ph.D. scientist, a physicist.
The push for scientists to enter politics has been long coming, but recent developments within the Trump administration have brought attention on the matter into greater public light:
“The attacks on science, of course, didn’t start with the Trump administration, but it has been a catalyst to getting scientists out of the lab and into running for federal office,” Naughton said. “That is one bright spot.”
“These are not people that envision themselves as politicians and build a résumé around that,” Naughton said. “These are people that are genuinely outraged and concerned by the direction the country is going in, especially in this administration and this Congress.”
“It seems that time has really come,” she added. “I find that really encouraging.”