Over time, Trimmer said, Franklin’s List envisions involving itself in state and local races—a logical expansion since state legislatures, school boards, and other local bodies wrestle with what to include in textbooks or exclude from curricula, and increasingly, how and how much to fund state universities, economic incentives, and other programs aimed at promoting STEM research and education.
Acting locally will also help Franklin’s List find candidates better able to jump from the lab to the state house to Congress. The smaller the race, the less funding and fewer supporters candidates need.
“The STEM candidates we’ll be searching for who have been in the lab or in academic circles, their idea was always to be in academia as a biologist or a physicist. They don’t have the network that somebody might have who has been a businessperson or an attorney in the community and might always have, in the back of their mind, thought about politics as an option,” Trimmer said. “It will be much easier for them to work their way up and to build that grassroots support.”
And build they must, if science advocates are to get elected as members of Congress, senators, governors, mayors, or other local officeholders. They’ll need to learn—and Franklin’s List will have to teach them—how to build coalitions of voters adding up to 51% or more through politics and policy. In politics, while money matters much, it can’t always buy victory: Advocate-candidates must learn how to campaign for votes, drawing on veteran campaign staffers and volunteers, by winning over not just lab colleagues or the academic crowd, but the great swath of voters not engaged in science, whether through disinterest or ignorance.
As for policy, groups like Research!America, UMR, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) have made the case for higher NIH funding; who can oppose funding the cure for cancer? Science advocates will need to develop similarly effective arguments that can withstand increasingly vocal opposition for advancing climate change and evolution, and whatever other issues Franklin’s List adds to its agenda.
To succeed, in short, Franklin’s List will have to find candidates substantive and honest enough to heed Ben Franklin’s advice in verse No. 179 of Poor Richard’s Almanack: “Half the truth is often a great lie.”