Friday, June 1, 2012

Science represents!

Science Vs Politics series.

As a scientist, I view the world with science eyes. I see political decisions get made and it sometimes depresses me, sometimes makes me laugh, and sometimes makes me proud. It got me thinking, if our politicians represent us, who amongst them represents our passion for science.

I thought it would be interesting to see who of our political representatives has a science/engineering background. This is almost a 'litmus test' of our politicians to see who among them are scientifically literate. Granted, you don’t have to have a science degree to be scientifically literate, but I think in this sort of office, there really is a lot to be said for formal science training. I’ll start with the House of Representatives; this is not the full story.

If you want to find out more about any of these yourself, just go to the Parliament of Australia website like I did. There is a ‘Bio’ link on each of the members, and where that info wasn’t enough, I went to their personal home pages, also linked on the members’ page.

The list in alphabetical order is:

Karen Andrews - Liberal - McPherson (Qld) - Mechanical Engineering
Darren Cheeseman - Labour - Corangamite (Vic) - Applied Science( Geology)
Greg Combet - Labour - Charlton (NSW) - Engineering (Mining)
John Forrest - National - Mallee (Vic) - Science and Engineering
Harry Jenkins - Labour - Scullin (Vic) - Science
Dennis Jensen - Liberal - Tangney (WA) - Applied Science (PhD)
Richard Marles - Labour - Corio (Vic) - Science
Scott Morrison - Liberal - Cook (NSW) - Applied Science (Geology)
Laura Smythe - Labour - La trobe (Vic) - Science

This list consists of 9 people amongst 150 elected members have some formal university training in science or engineering. The majority of the other university qualifications seemed to be either law, arts or commerce. There were a few farmers, journalists and teachers, and one who has zero university qualifications, as he has barely left high school!

Disclaimer: I’m not trying to suggest that politicians that don’t have a university qualification in science are not as capable or intelligent as others. I'm sure our representatives are all very intelligent and work hard for our nation. Also, I'm sure their advisors and officers employ people with science backgrounds.

While I think that politicians are experts at being politicians, I also think that only 6% of our representatives have some formal science qualifications, is a little low. What is the point? this is simply for information and a discussion point and I hope it is successful in that aim.

I will also trawl through the senators' information and make another list of the scientists in the upper house next time. I intend to make a list of all politicians state and federal, upper and lower house that have formal scientific qualifications, just for information...but not just yet!

My solution is to raise awareness of science in places where I see a need. I see a need in our political system to have a greater understanding of science and a greater respect for its worth and value.

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