Guest blog: Where science fits in election cycles

posted by Guest Blogger on Friday, October 28, 2022

Science and evidence are at the forefront in the drive to restore Iowa’s water and air quality and to slow and reverse human-caused climate change.

So it’s vital to know how candidates for U.S. Senate and House of Representative, Iowa governor, secretary of agriculture, secretary of state and general assembly would use and evaluate science as they make policy.

Through three election cycles, Science Iowa, an Iowa Environmental Council member organization, has asked politicians for their views on science-related issues. Besides climate change, our questionnaire delves into scientific integrity, biofuels, sustainable agriculture, public health and more. You can find candidates’ responses to the Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey at

Iowa Science Policy Candidate Survey, shape of Iowa in green over black background

In 2020 and this year, Science Iowa joined with Iowa State University’s ASPIRE and Connecting Science to Society student groups (both chapters of the National Science Policy Network, or NSPN) to expand the questionnaire’s scope. We solicited other science, environmental, agricultural and educational organizations to suggest questions and to review and endorse the survey. NSPN is supporting similar questionnaires in other states and frequently uses Iowa’s program as an example.

The Iowa Environmental Council has joined the effort in 2020 and this year. Council leadership has reviewed and tweaked the questions and council staff, especially Angelisa Belden, have helped promote the survey. Other council members also participated: Conservation Districts of Iowa, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Drake Environmental Action League.

With their help, this year’s questionnaire is the most successful yet. Opinion pieces publicizing the survey and signed by ASPIRE, Connecting Science to Society, and Science Iowa leaders have appeared in the Des Moines Register and other Iowa papers and on the Bleeding Heartland blog. Both U.S. Senate candidates, Michael Franken and Charles Grassley, responded.

Questions that may interest council member organizations include:

  • What are your positions on changes, if any, to Iowa’s energy portfolio and the role biofuels play in it?
  • What, if any, policies do you propose or support to improve rural resiliency in the face of increased flooding and severe storms that result from climate change?
  • How will you ensure that research and scientific evidence plays a role in the development of policies regarding concentrated animal feeding operations?

Overall, 24 candidates have replied so far – more than in the previous cycles, but still only about a tenth of those running across state and federal offices. You can help build on those numbers: If candidates for state legislature or other offices representing you have not responded, let them know their answers are important to you.

Science-related issues are still low on the list of issues politicians address. It will take more than three election cycles to change that. Science Iowa and its partners will return in 2024 and beyond to continue raising the standard for science and evidence.

About the Author

Thomas O'Donnell

Science Iowa Secretary Thomas R. O'Donnell is a science writer and editor from Keosauqua.

  1. member org

About The Author

IEC is pleased to welcome guest bloggers on a number of different topics throughout the year. If you are interested in submitting a blog piece to IEC, contact us at