“Science on the Stump” in Iowa

As host of the first primary contest, Iowa is a quadrennial center of presidential politics. Candidates already are visiting cafes, schools, farms, business and homes throughout the state. March for Science Iowa intends to take advantage of our unique political role to put evidence and sound policy at the forefront.

With a grant from Science Debate (sciencedebate.org) we will stage a forum: “Science on the Stump: Putting evidence and science policy on the caucus campaign itinerary” on Friday, May 3.

In collaboration with the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, we’ll host two panel discussions at the college’s Olmsted Center in Des Moines. First, science activists and educators, along with agriculture and business leaders, will discuss what science-related issues are important to their constituencies and what they want to hear from candidates. Audience members will be able to ask questions and offer comments.

Second, Iowa political journalists will tell what the candidates are saying about science policy and which are making it an important part of their campaigns. They’ll offer tips for citizens who want to push contenders to take positions on science.

The event is part of the national March for Science Day of Action, but we chose a Friday afternoon because it had a better chance of attracting experts and journalists who would be unwilling to sacrifice a Saturday. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. and end with a reception.

Panelists so far include David Courard-Hauri, a Drake environmental science and sustainability professor; evolutionary biologist and activist Maurine Neiman of the University of Iowa; David Kurns, editorial content director for Successful Farming magazine; and Brian Waller, president of the Technology Association of Iowa. Kathie Obradovich, editorial page editor for The Des Moines Register, will moderate.

Journalists committed to appear on the second panel include Pat Rynard of the Iowa Starting Line blog (iowastartingline.com) and Doug Burns of the Carroll Times Herald. We’re awaiting confirmation on other potential participants for both panels.

On Sunday, June 9, we’ll follow up with a lighter, less overtly political event, the Science Festival Trail. Environmental and science organizations will join us West Des Moines’ Raccoon River Park. Each will have a tent or table at various locations on a 3-mile path around the park’s lake. Participants will receive a “passport” will be stamped at each station. Those with completed passports will receive a bag of goodies, including coupons for free ice cream.

Collaborating organizations so far include Citizens Climate Lobby, the Polk County Conservation Board, Polk County Board of Health, RecycleMe Iowa, the Des Moines Blank Park Zoo and more. The event will help spread the word on climate change, vaccinations, environmentalism and more while helping MFSI establish coalitions with like-minded groups.

After going semi-dormant for much of the last year, March for Science Iowa is awakening. We hope to help drive the agenda in an important year.