What qualifies as a STEM background?

VoteSTEM.org lists candidates who have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent professional experience in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field. In general, we err on the side of inclusion — and for all candidates, we describe the details of their STEM background to help you decide for yourself if they are someone you want to support.

We exclude candidates who deny accepted, robust facts. Candidates who refuse to accept the scientific consensus around topics like climate change or evolution are working against our core value of evidence-based decision-making. Sadly, the ranks of fact-denying politicians includes some with STEM backgrounds. When we come across these candidates, we add them to our Science Fact Deniers page.

How does having a STEM background make someone a good policy-maker?

A STEM background gives a candidate training and experience in gathering, assessing, and analyzing information — useful skills for making evidence-based policy decisions. We think that these STEM candidates will all help bring more facts into the political arena. However, no single aspect of a candidate’s background can automatically make them a good policy-maker. That comes from a person’s whole array of strengths and limitations, leadership skills, and positions on key issues.

For good advice on how to research and evaluate candidates, check out these pages from USA.gov and the League of Women Voters.  These are both respected, non-partisan organizations dedicated to helping inform and educate voters.

Where do you find the candidates?

We found our initial set of candidates at 314Action.orgMeet the Scientists Running for Office from Time, and The American Scientists Stepping Up To Run For Office from Wired.

Realizing there had to be more STEM candidates than those handful, we started systematically going through every district of every state on Ballotpedia. We’re working our way through the states in the order of their primaries.

Why are you listing candidates before the filing deadline? Won’t you miss some last-minute filers?

In order to get as much attention to STEM candidates as possible we want to get candidates listed and in front of you ASAP. To that end we’re doing two vetting passes for every state to ensure we find all possible STEM candidates.

The first pass we’ll do as soon as we can get to it, likely well before the filing deadline. We go through all the candidates listed for the race on Ballotpedia and vet them. After the filing deadline passes, we’ll do a second run over the races to pick up anyone we missed or to drop anyone who has withdrawn.

If you know of a STEM candidate that we missed during the first pass, let us know and we’ll add them as soon as we know about them!

Do you fact-check candidates’ information?

Nope. We research and cite, but we do not fact-check — that would require us to individually contact each school and employer to verify a candidate’s education and experience. Most of the information we present is from the candidates’ own statements about themselves, primarily their campaign websites, LinkedIn profiles, or news articles.

Are you endorsing candidates?

No, we do not endorse any candidates. We wish all STEM candidates success in their races, and hope they will use their platforms to focus on fact-based decisions on the campaign trail and after.

See VoteSTEM and endorsements for more detail.

How do you screen out science-fact deniers?

We can’t guarantee that every candidate we list has a perfect record with the facts, but we do a bit of sleuthing to see if they belong on our list of science fact deniers instead. If you know of evidence that a listed candidate has denied scientific facts, please let us know and we’ll update our listings.

To screen a candidate, we start with their “Issues” webpage and look for their position on climate change, since this issue is very polarized. If they acknowledge the existence of climate change, we look over the rest of their website for red flags but usually don’t do any further research.

The exception is candidates who have held state or federal office — they have often made statements or voted on bills about climate change or evolution. We do a google search for both climate change and evolution to see what we can find.

If a candidate doesn’t state a position on climate change, we do a google search for their positions on climate change or evolution. Sometimes we can’t find anything they’ve said about either issue — in which case we give them the benefit of the doubt and list them.

What are the facts about climate change, anyway?

  • Global warming has been happening — and the evidence is unequivocal.
  • Human activities have definitely contributed to global warming.
  • It’s 95% certain that human activities have caused most of the global warming since 1950.
  • The best estimate is that human activities have caused all or nearly all of the global warming since 1950.

Or to sum up in a single sentence: Global warming is unequivocally happening, and humans have caused most — maybe all — of it.

This is our summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report (2014). Here’s a post with more details.

Aren’t scientists still arguing over evolution?

That’s a common myth. In fact, scientists nearly all agree that species have evolved over time. This includes humans. The US National Academy of Sciences sums it up in their publication on evolution and creationism:

The scientific consensus around evolution is overwhelming. Those opposed to the teaching of evolution sometimes use quotations from prominent scientists out of context to claim that scientists do not support evolution. However, examination of the quotations reveals that the scientists are actually disputing some aspect of how evolution occurs, not whether evolution occurred.

Studies in evolutionary biology have led to the conclusion that human beings arose from ancestral primates. This association was hotly debated among scientists in Darwin’s day. But today there is no significant scientific doubt about the close evolutionary relationships among all primates, including humans.

Who are you?

We are scientists, computer engineers, and others who are fed up with the status quo. Our education ranges from BS in Computer Science, to MA in English, to a PhD in Urban Ecology. We work in both the public and private sectors. Several of us come from hyper-rural areas of the country and others are pure city-slickers.

Why “VoteSTEM.org”?

We struggled with picking the right domain name because we needed a name that was brief, yet also memorable and clear.

We chose vote because it is a strong, active verb. Our mission is a call to action.

We chose STEM for brevity. This acronym was introduced in 2001 by the U.S. National Science Foundation to designate a background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

To clarify our mission for those unfamiliar with the STEM acronym and to reinforce our goals, we added the tagline, “Scientists and Engineers for Public Office”.

How can I help?

See our Get Involved page to see how you can help support STEM candidates and us here at VoteSTEM.org.