How NFL and NBA cheerleaders and citizen scientists came together.

chemical heritiage magazine ota science cheerleaderIf you’ve ever wondered how Science Cheerleader could have possibly started as a blog to advocate for the reopening of a Congressional agency (the Office of Technology Assessment) and picked up support from NFL and NBA cheerleaders and citizen scientists along the way, this read is for you.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to explain all this in the inaugural “Catalyst” column, a new feature in Chemical Heritage Magazine.

Here is an excerpt, followed by a link to the full article. Please consider sharing your thoughts here.

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As a University of Pennsylvania graduate with a shiny new master’s degree, I set out on a crusade to reopen the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). I was naïve and delusionally optimistic perhaps, but this quest was a very personal one.

In 2005, while writing a research paper about this well-oiled machine, I learned that the OTA was one of the few government agencies that had worked almost entirely as envisioned, despite its limited budget. The agency provided Congress with nonpartisan, in-depth analysis on emerging science and technology issues until it was defunded in the early 1990s as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America. (Meanwhile, other countries were establishing comparable entities and including citizen input.) In my research I stumbled upon the work of citizen scientists who number in the millions: people like me with no hard academic backgrounds who are deeply interested in science, especially science policy and science literacy. I thought, “What if we could reopen the OTA and harness the vitality of our citizen scientists?”

Up to this point my relationship with science mirrored that of millions of other tax-paying Americans: spectator and funder. I believed there had to be a way to tap the enthusiasm, curiosity, and personal experiences of people like me. Up to this point my relationship with science mirrored that of millions of other tax-paying Americans: spectator and funder. I believed there had to be a way to tap the enthusiasm, curiosity, and personal experiences of people like me. I started to publish papers on the need to reopen the OTA and began a blog called Science Cheerleader that focused on this issue. But how was I to convince policy makers and the public in the midst of what some were calling an “anti-science” political climate? And, perhaps more daunting, how was I to prove to the science community that “average” people can learn about and participate in the often complex discussions of emerging science and technology policies? As improbable as it might seem, I started with what I knew: cheerleading.

Read full article here.