Science for the PeopleSchmalzer, Chard Botelho
Science for the People (SftP), the most important radical science movement in U.S. history, arose in 1969 out of the anti-war movement and lasted until 1989. With a Marxist analysis and non-hierarchical governing structure, SftP tackled the militarization of scientific research, the corporate control of research agendas, the political implications of sociobiology and other scientific theories, the environmental consequences of energy policy, inequalities in health care, and many other issues. Its members opposed racism, sexism, and classism in science and above all sought to mobilize people working in scientific fields to become active in agitating for science, technology, and medicine that would serve social needs.
Through research, writing, protest, and grassroots organizing, SftP sought to demystify scientific knowledge and embolden “the people” to take science and technology into their own hands. SftP’s numerous publications played a formative role in the field of science and technology studies, challenging mainstream understandings of science as “neutral” and instead showing it to be inherently political. Its members, some of whom held prominent university positions, served as models for politically engaged science and scholarship by using their own knowledge to challenge, rather than uphold, the social, political, and economic status quo. They organized in universities and communities, published a magazine offering sharp political analysis, and sought meaningful scientific exchange internationally in Vietnam, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other countries.
Some of the issues we face today have changed in important ways, but fundamental questions of power, ideology, and democracy in science remain. The time is ripe to gather SftP veterans with other scientists, activists, students, and scholars in an exploration of what the history of SftP can teach us… and where we go from here.