“There are some real frustrations.” – Rocket scientist & Representative Rush Holt, on how science works in Congress.

Scientific American (via Nature) has more about Rush Holt’s eight-term Congressional career, and his new gig as CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

Is it distressing that science funding has been slashed in recent years?
It’s not just science funding. In Congress, the public understanding of science has slipped in recent years and the way science is integrated into public policy has deteriorated somewhat so there is a lot of work to be done. This is not just communication and education but also making sure scientists understand the importance of integrating their work into public policy.

Why has that slippage taken place?
For a variety of reasons, some of which go back to the fact that for 50 years now in schools we have been teaching science primarily for future scientists rather than for every future member of society and every future citizen.

In the current political climate of Congress, what have been your major frustrations?
Over the years in Congress I have gotten great satisfaction and encountered real frustrations in dealing with funding for research, trying to make sure science is applied constructively in intelligence, military affairs, transportation, justice, gun safety, environment protection — in all of those things. There are some real frustrations. I’ll leave it at that.

Is there one issue in particular that nags at you from your terms in Congress?
Science and international affairs. That means bringing good scientific thinking to matters of arms control and intelligence and war and peace. I think we would all benefit from thinking like scientists, and those are important areas. Also, in areas of environmental protection and public health we need more scientific thinking. Most recently, I think we would benefit if more people thought like scientists in confronting Ebola. We would benefit if more people thought like scientists in facing climate change.

Your “My Congressman IS a Rocket Scientist” bumper stickers were quite popular. Any plans to bring that approach to AAAS to further science?
I have a number of unused bumper stickers. You can have some of the extras. To have a bumper sticker campaign for AAAS that’s interesting — I like that suggestion! Yes!