Members of Princeton Citizen Scientists held a teach-in program at the Princeton Public Library this Thursday aimed at educating community members about scientific issues which may have an impact on them.
“I can’t think of a better place to have a teach-in than Princeton,” Mayor Liz Lempert said in a speech at the beginning of the event. “I think we all have so much to learn about what the latest is and to get informed about some of the most important issues facing our community and facing our country and facing our world.”
The event was structured as a series of 30-minute workshops centered around discussion, questions, and strategies for action. Topics included climate change, cyber-security, nuclear weapons, prison teaching, the costs of health care, and immigration and social justice.
“We’re specifically concerned with giving the public the tools to be able to separate signal from noise,” vice president Krupa Jani GS said in an interview. “When you’re inundated with a lot of information on all of these very important topics, it can be hard to sort through that if you’re a member of the public.”
The event was modeled on the Day of Action, a series of 64 teach-ins and discussions held at Frist Campus Center in March last year. Most of the teach-ins were led by University faculty members, whereas the library event was led by Princeton Citizen Scientist members and representatives from local civic organization.
“Our goal was to leave the University campus ground and come meet with the community,” President Sebastien Philippe GS said. “We want to talk about the issues that are important for our group in the same format as the Day of Action.”
Although Princeton Citizen Scientists is a group mainly composed of University graduate students and postdocs in the sciences, the teach-in included topics on other issues related to democracy and social justice.
“Even at this event now, we have some speakers who are talking about immigration and prison, and these [topics] aren’t necessarily scientific,” Justin Ripley GS, a coordinator of the event and member of Princeton Citizen Scientists, said.
“Another focus of ours is to train scientists how to do outreach and how to speak to the public,” he added. “This [teach-in] will be a learning experience for us today.”
“The Day of Action was more behind-the-scenes, and only a handful of [Princeton Citizen Scientists members] actually dictated the teach-ins,” Ashley Conard GS said.
“Our goal as citizen scientists is to better communicate and also to understand and inform public debate,” Philippe said.
Princeton Citizen Scientists sent members to Washington, D.C., in May to meet with legislators. Over the summer, they participated in the March for Science in Washington, D.C., and also nuclear weapon negotiations at the U.N.
The event was coordinated in conjunction with the library.
“Some of the biggest questions that we have at the library are related to activism, are related to what’s going on in the news,” Adult Services Librarian Kelsey Ockert, who coordinates technology and events at the library, said.
“I was looking for a place that people can come, get some questions answered, understand that there are scientists out there who care,” she added.
Ockert reached out to the Princeton Citizen Scientists, who took the opportunity to address the community rather than the campus.
“Our work is not just about being engaged but educating others so they can be engaged too,” Conard said.
Looking forward to the next year, the group hopes to expand its presence on campus, in the community, and in policy.
“We want to continue to have a positive impact on the campus,” Philippe said. “One thing we’re heading towards is the anniversary of the [2016 presidential] election, which is why we were founded.”
“We want to try to understand what happened in the past year and how we go from there,” he added.
The teach-in was held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Princeton Public Library.