Who let the politician speak up for science?

 

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Olin room 103, pre-speech. [Photo taken by Zoe Roswold]

Walking into Olin 103 on the south side of University of Denver’s campus on May 10, 2016 there were a couple things I did not expect, one of them happened to be pizza. When the funny man from the Hill, Ryan Davison, stopped by to talk with us about “How Politics Impact Chemistry and Fundamental Research,” I was shocked to learn I was getting more of an opinionated history lesson than any real unbiased expandable material.

For someone like me, who isn’t quite sure where they stand on the spectrum of all things politics, hearing views that causally bully you into perceiving one side as more sensitive to science than the other, you begin to question what is being said. No one likes to hear a speech that clearly has an agenda. I took notice to his charm, relatability, and the way he smoothly maneuvered questions from the peanut gallery as a functional way for him to hook his audience, just like any good politician would.

Ryan Davison has a long and impressive background most notably consisting of a Ph.D. from the medical school at Georgetown and his manager advocacy position at the American Chemical Society. Turns out after he committed his long journey of education to science, he did some self-reflecting and realized he was more passionate about politics and was successfully able to merge the two together.

“Advocacy is really just the cleaner word for lobbyist,” said Davison as he attempted to acquaint his audience with his lifestyle.

In the beginning of the talk Davison talked about the basic structure of the government here in the United States. Boring right? Not exactly, his approach was excitingly appealing, as he seemed to summarize my entire seventh grade history class in less than twenty minutes.

The dirty of it is; there are three branches. The executive branch includes all executive press and agencies. The Legislative branch includes the senate and the House of Representatives. The Judicial is made up of the non Supreme Court Justices, which are lifetime appointments. He goes over what each sector does, how they operate, and what their general makeup is, while also throwing in some hilarious dialogue so we didn’t loose interest.

Davison on the Head of the House Paul Ryan “Compared to the rest of the House’s monkeys who are basically throwing jelly at the wall, Ryan is the golden boy. He can say things you know you strongly disagree with yet you still can’t find it in yourself to hate him, he is just too gorgeous.”

Before getting into the science, Davison refreshingly produced at least one neutral comment about how both parties (Democrats vs. Republicans) usually want to accomplish the same things, yet want to do them in different ways.

It felt like forever before we did finally hear about politics AND science though. We started with the Senate/ House combo and talked about the science communities’ young beginnings there in the 1950’s, when the House Space Committee first started out in the wake of the sputnik program.

This committee now has jurisdiction over all non-defense federal R7D policy including NSF EPA DoE NIST FAA FEMA. It has almost thirty members, twelve of whom are democrats. You can do the math.

After going over some of the smaller science committees that are woven into our system, we barely had time to talk about the current tension between the government and the science community today. Some of the chairmen on these committees disturbingly are not even scientists, rather politicians.

The talk continued in the direction on how democrats are currently outnumbered in the chambers, and thus there are too many brick walls to win the majority vote needed for bills to be sent up to the president.

On a closing note Davison talked about the chaos that ensued after John Holdren, Obama’s right hand science man, casually stated that the peer review process could be better during his testimony to the House on the presidential fiscal year. The media loved this. Holdren immediately regretted his statement.

Reviewing some of the legislation that included studies done with shrimp on a treadmill, which actually did have scientist value to determine how clean water enhances all life, as we are apart of the food chain, really did not appeal to most Americans, most likely because it was using everyone’s tax dollars.

Media drives politics. So if the media is concerned about where our tax dollars are headed, you best believe that congress knows about it. Thankfully several bills were passed to enhance the program as a result of this peer review fiasco.

Davison, although tactful, just had too much material to get through, making his audience feel lost. I came there to hear more about science in polices not politics and maybe two policies on science. And while his charismatic persuasive approach was exciting his agenda was blatantly noticeable since we were at a lecture not a rally.

But if there is one thing I will take away from this Davison lecture it will be “If you loose an election just make sure it is not in a year that ends in 0.” Just kidding I am not going into politics.

 

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Ryan Davison, speaking to a room of twenty people on May 10, 2016. [Photo taken by Zoe Roswold]

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