In the week since President Donald Trump took the oath of office, scientists have taken to social media en masse, decrying the new administration’s plan to dismantle climate regulations, reports that the administration has censored government scientists’ speech and the coining of the term “alternative facts.”
But Michael Eisen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks that the situation requires more drastic action. So on 25 January, he announced on Twitter that he will run for US Senate in 2018.
Eisen, who is best known as an advocate for free access to scientific publications and as co-founder of the Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals, may have a viable path to elected office. Dianne Feinstein, the 83-year-old senator from his state, California, has indicated that she might not run for re-election in 2018.
Nature caught up with Eisen to ask him about his plans. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
This election, and in particular, everybody’s worst fears about the new administration’s attitudes. Not toward science in the narrow sense — I don’t think people are worried about whether the NIH [National Institutes of Health] budget will go up or down by 2% — but the basic rejection of the fundamental principles upon which science is based.
I’ve long thought that there’s been a dearth of scientific engagement with politics in general. Spouting on Twitter just feels inadequate. People are saying, “Where are all the senior scientists to stand up and defend science?”. I just sort of felt like, they’re right.
I’d never really thought about [running for office] in any serious way. I love my job. Doing something takes my focus away from my job — I’ve never wanted to do that before. But I feel like this moment calls for people to take some risks and do something.
That’s the place where the issues are in focus. I keep wanting to see a scientist in these hearings on all these presidential appointees, who can ask them questions that a …