Science for the People: The 1970s and Today
A 3-Day Conference (11-13 April 2014) at UMass Amherst
Hosted by the Social Thought & Political Economy Program
This conference on the history of the 1970-80s organization Science for the People provided a forum for about 200 people — including veteran members of Science for the People along with other scientists, scholars, activists, and students — to come together in lively dialogue. Together, we reconstructed the analysis Science for the People brought to bear on the political, economic, and social power structures that shape scientific research. Issue-themed panels further provided opportunities to discuss the relevance of this history for current movements around climate change, the militarization of science, agricultural science and food justice, the scientific construction of race and gender, and many other topics.
This website will be maintained as a hub for studying the history of Science for the People and for future organizing. Video of all sessions will soon be posted, and the program tab already contains abstracts and presentation files for many of the presentations. We also especially invite you to explore the historical materials we have collected, which includes many SftP publications along with FBI files obtained through a FOIA request.
What was Science for the People?
Science for the People arose in 1969 out of the anti-war movement and lasted until 1989. With a Marxist analysis and non-hierarchical governing structure, Science for the People tackled the militarization of scientific research, the corporate control of research agendas, the political implications of sociobiology and other scientific theories, the environmental consequences of energy policy, inequalities in health care, and many other issues.
Its members opposed racism, sexism, and classism in science and above all sought to mobilize people working in scientific fields to become active in agitating for science, technology, and medicine that would serve social needs rather than military and corporate interests. They organized in universities and communities, published a magazine offering sharp political analysis, and sought meaningful scientific exchange internationally in Vietnam, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and other countries.
Some of the issues we face today have changed in important ways, but fundamental questions of power, ideology, and democracy in science remain. The time is ripe to gather SftP veterans with other scientists, activists, students, and scholars in an exploration of what the history of SftP can teach us… and where we go from here.
UMass Units: College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; College of Humanities and Fine Arts; Afro-American Studies Department; Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Economics Department; School of Education; History Department; Department of Mathematics and Statistics; Political Science Department; Center for Public Policy & Administration; Science, Technology, and Society Initiative; Special Collections and University Archives; Stockbridge School of Agriculture; Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program
Other Five-College Units: Hampshire College Dean of Faculty; Hampshire College School of Critical Social Inquiry; Hampshire College School of Natural Science; Smith College History of Science
Student Organizations: Center for Education Policy & Advocacy, Environmental Conservation Grad Council, Public Health Club, Research Mill, Sociology Graduate Student Association
Community Organizations: American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, Arise for Social Justice (Springfield), Climate Action Now! in Western Massachusetts, Gardening the Community (Springfield), Northampton Committee to Stop the Wars, Nuestras Raices (Holyoke), Permaculture FEAST, PVGrows (Western Mass), Western MA Permaculture Meetup
Katherine Yih, Vinton Thompson, Abha Sur, Florence Sullivan, Brian Schultz, Sigrid Schmalzer, Robert Shapiro, Donna Riley. Emily Redman, Elke Heckner, Alan Goodman, Herb Fox, Minna Barrett
Graduate Student Fellows: Alyssa Botelho, Dan Chard, Thomas Conner
Undergraduate Seminar Students: Sam Bowden, Saphrona Denney, Paityn Desautels, Colleen Garey, Liam Gude, Ian Hagerty, Carolyn Kelly, Jenny Landon, Meghan Long, Rachel Rozanski, Doug Vitagliano, Soctt Wexler
Further assistance from
Ben Allen, Danielle Covaks, Rob Cox, Osato Nneka Egonmwan, Olivia Espinoza, Heather Franklin, Jessica Johnson, Laura Lovett, Katherine Mallory, Melanie McCalmont, Sam Redman, Deborah Reiter, Tyler Rocco, Emily Shepard
Major funding provided by the National Science Foundation.