It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about watching the increasingly early appearance of Christmas sales, songs, and lights. I’m talking about what I did after work yesterday on a cool, clear autumn evening. I voted at my local middle school in northern Virginia.
It probably won’t surprise any readers that I think it’s critically important that every American votes in every election, regardless of whether you’re voting for President of the United States or the members of your town council. It is the least that every person, physicist or otherwise, can do to direct the future of our country.
Ok, stepping off the high-school civics soapbox now and onto the scientific one. Physicists, and scientists in general, do have an obligation and responsibility to the country that goes beyond that of the so-called Joe-Six Packs of the country. The majority of our research is funded by tax dollars and that alone places a certain responsibility on our shoulders.
Voting is the least we can do as physicists. There are many more ways that we can help shape the future direction of the country.
Culturing a relationship with your elected representatives is an important next step so that they eventually can look to you as an expert and resource when they have questions.
Writing opinion pieces for your local paper does get noticed (assuming you live in a city that still has a functioning newspaper) and can effectively shape a debate. Some physicists have gotten really good at this and could use your support to continue their efforts.
Run for office! Yes, it’s scary, complicated, and, from a scientists point of view, a little dirty. But nothing can do more for change than getting scientists involved at every level starting with school boards and city councils. APS co-sponsors workshops, organized by Scientists and Engineers for America, that can help you if you’re even slightly considering a campaign.
The APS DC office is here to help you become a more involved and active physicist. If you’re interested in what you can do, write me at Larsen@aps.org and we’ll find a way for you to make a difference.