The late 1960s saw the birth of many activist groups fighting to change the status quo, particularly in light of the ongoing Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.
Science for the People was one such group. It was made up of radical scientists who challenged the relationship between their work and political and economic power.
By 1990, Science for the People had dissolved. Now, the group is experiencing a revival. It will hold its national convention this weekend at the University of Michigan.
Fern MacDougal is a master's student at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and a member of UM's chapter of Science for the People.
Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.
On the foundational beliefs of Science for the People
“We oppose exploitation, marginalization, and oppression in science and society. We oppose the use of science for profiteering, capitalism, imperialism, war, etc.
“We look at science, and we ask ourselves the questions: Who is science actually serving? Who is controlling what research is done? Who is performing this science? And we look at who has the privilege to actually be doing that. Who is funding this science, and what do they want out of it? What are the products of this science, and how will they be used? And realistically, who has the means to use them and to what ends?”
On the state of the organization
“Things have grown very quickly. Right now, we have a website, we’re working on reviving the publication, and we’ve written bylaws and organizational structure that we’d like to ratify at this convention. We’ve started forming some working groups, and that’s another purpose of the convention.”
On the group’s past dealings with repressive, communist regimes
“That’s something that our organization has to wrestle with. I don’t think that that characterizes the organization now. I think that we have high hopes and wanted to shed our cultural bias and understand what is the potential for socialism? Is there the potential here for egalitarian social and economic forms? And we know that a lot of those have failed and been co-opted by power and have become incredibly repressive.”