Call for Submissions: Science for the Public Good

Send us your ideas by Sept 25.
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Photo by Andrew Rich / iStock.

If we think of science as curiosity in thoughtful action about the world and how it works, then all humans are born scientists. How can we push that curiosity even further into the public realm and turn it into a tool for advocacy and social change?

Some subjects we’d like to explore in the Spring 2017 issue of YES!:

Scientists as advocates: At the Paris climate talks we heard scientists raising their voices in defense of climate science and then going further—advocating for policies that could save the planet. What is the history and reasoning for keeping science out of advocacy in the first place? How can scientists become even greater allies in activism around climate and environmental justice?

Every person a scientist: There are some powerful examples of citizen-led science-based activism; the water poisoning in Flint, Michigan, is one example. Public Lab teaches people to investigate environmental concerns using inexpensive DIY techniques. Any impacts to report from their work? Crowdsourced research on animal migration shifts and sea changes in coastal areas—how are citizens engaging more as students and caretakers of their physical world? Who are the citizen scientists doing amazing work?

Overcoming bad history: For many communities of color, scientific research has been something done to them, not for them or by them. How can communities and researchers overcome a history of exclusion and concerns about unethical research and find a way forward as partners? The Community-Based/Tribally-Based Participatory Research (CBPR/TPR) model used at University of Washington, where the researchers worked with the tribes, may offer a new paradigm.

Your DNA is everywhere: Inexpensive genetic testing is allowing people to learn more about their ancestry. What implications does this testing have for our understanding of racial and ethnic identity—and what does it mean in the struggle for racial justice? And the explosion in available genetic information, data that can offer us new insights about health and genetics that could potentially benefit many or be a tool for corporate instead of public gain—what are the ethics? Who owns the data? What’s up with the big Iceland genetics project to decode DNA for a massive population? What can we learn from that experience about the politics of privacy in this new era?  

Corporations out of science: How do we make sure publicly funded research benefits the public? When drug companies make buckets of money off pricey drugs that were developed initially because of publicly funded research, something’s wrong. But there may be a solution: National Institutes of Health can shorten the wait for generic versions of drugs—if they can find the political will. How do we solve the “other” drug money problems—drug companies funding their own research and distorting outcomes to maximize profits? How can we ensure public-funded science is done in the public interest—and reflects the needs and health concerns of a broad range of people? Are there ethical models for corporate-funded research?

Strengthening the commons: When publicly funded research is published in expensive journals, people not connected to wealthy institutions can’t afford access. Now scientists are pushing back with open-source publishing. What are the intellectual property implications? What about the work we never get to learn about—the failures and the “no significant results”? In science, these are as important as the successes when it comes to advancing knowledge. New journals are offering scientists a place to report these “failures.”

We’re looking for stories that address useful solutions at all levels, from policies to communities to individuals. We’re especially interested in stories that show creative solutions already in place. Do you have an idea for a reported feature, deeply researched think piece, or personal essay that belongs in this issue of YES! Magazine? Send pitches and leads to [email protected]

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