Letter to the Editor: Listening is essential to ensure scientific perspective in legislature

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As both a scientist and an elected representative, ensuring Minnesota leads with a scientific perspective in the state legislature is a priority for me. I perform research as a doctoral candidate in ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota, while advocating for a more supportive, inclusive and healthy campus culture as president of the Council of Graduate Students. I know how science can help us forecast the impact of our choices, and illuminate the problems we are facing regarding environmental justice. I’ve been closely following the race for State Representative in District 60B, where community leader Ilhan Omar is challenging longtime incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn.

A scientific perspective is extremely important in the state legislature, but increasing the number of scientists in the legislature isn’t the only way to get it. It’s more important to increase the number of legislators willing to listen to scientists, and the number of legislators who are committed to understanding how scientific solutions can best serve our increasingly diverse community. In both of my roles as a scientist and an elected representative, I support Ilhan Omar to be the next State Representative of District 60B.

When it comes to the scientific advancement of our state, what impresses me the most about Omar is her ability to listen. I am confident that Omar will listen to experts, critically evaluate the information put before her, and connect this information with the people impacted to make informed decisions. A legislator needs to account for the cause and effect of legislation and the needs of the community. This is done by listening.

Omar is also the strongest candidate on the number one scientific issue in the state – support for the University of Minnesota. Research at the University is critical for the advancement of sustainable agriculture practices, protecting our natural lands and resources, creating clean energy alternatives and mitigating the effects of climate change. The University of Minnesota is the scientific center of the state, and Omar’s prioritization of higher education is the strongest way to support science across disciplines.

 

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Omar prioritizes student needs, which not only nurtures the talent in Minnesota, but helps draw new scientific talent to the state as well. Omar has already demonstrated that she would make frequent trips to campus. These visits will help her understand the latest scientific issues we face as she listens to undergraduate and graduate students talk about the research they are conducting on campus. Science is constantly changing, and we need a legislator who is dedicated to listening and exploring this new research and these new solutions. Omar is that person.

Rep. Kahn has made important contributions to the legislature as a scientist, and has had a long, praise-worthy record in the state. But it is not enough to be a scientist. No one person can be an expert in all of the scientific areas needed to move our state forward. In the state legislature, we need a representative who will listen. It’s time for change in who represents the district, and time for someone who will champion scientific solutions that will serve the needs of our community. It’s time for Ilhan Omar.