Excerpts from a letter to my senators

Recently the Ecological Society of America asked its members to write to their congressional representatives about federal science funding. Here are some excerpts from the letter I just sent to Arizona’s two senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain:

I am writing to you about the FY18 appropriations bill, requesting that you take steps to restore funding for scientific research – especially for ecological research.

Public funding for scientific is critical for economic and social advancement. Our prosperity depends on research and development; our future depends on educating our young people; our natural resources depend on us managing and protecting them for the future. We need to invest in this future.

I have been an Arizona voter since 2009, and will soon be on the life sciences faculty at Arizona State University, focusing on tropical forest ecology. Federal funding has been critical to providing opportunities to researchers and to the many students and citizens their work involves. I am 30 years old and still at the beginning my professional career, but have already been able to provide jobs for two veterans, and research experiences and job trainings for more than 15 undergraduate students, many from under-represented backgrounds. My research findings have been communicated to stakeholders in the Department of Defense, Fish and Wildlife Service, and have also generated discoveries shared with international audiences.

My work and career has been supported by the National Science Foundation via several programs in their Division of Environmental Biology. Many of these programs are currently experiencing large proposed budget cuts or have been already been shuttered. Other traditional supporters of ecological research (e.g. EPA, DOE, NASA) may see similar cuts in the proposed federal budget. This challenges our nation’s ability to understand and protect our natural landscapes, and to train a skilled workforce.

At this point, I spend increasingly large fractions of my work weeks applying for smaller amounts of funding, and smaller fractions doing my job – teaching, researching, and communicating with the broader community. My case is only an example, but I hope you can see that there are cascading negative effects throughout the Arizona community arising from these federal funding cuts – effects that will leave a legacy for the next generation of citizens, and for the planet they will inherit.

In the past I have been based in Europe, at research centers at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and the University of Oxford (England). The funding opportunities in Europe are far better than in the USA – there are more opportunities, and more resources available. I know several American scientists who have accepted jobs abroad because of the challenges we face at home. If I was most interested in only doing research, I would have taken a permanent job abroad too – but I have chosen to return to the USA for a job at a public university only because I believe in its mission – and obligation – to provide opportunities to our fellow citizens.

Please help us to carry on with this work by taking steps in Congress to restore federal science funding to competitive levels.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Hanna Coy says:

    Thanks for writing this letter, Ben. You are in a good position to be persuasive.

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