Michael Eisen—an evolutionary biologist who studies flies at the University of California, Berkeley, a co-founder of the pioneering open-access journal Public Library of Science, and a prolific Tweeter with more than 20,000 followers—is running for the United States Senate. On 25 January, he announced he intends to compete for the California Senate seat that has been held for a quarter-century by Dianne Feinstein (D), who has yet to announce whether she will run for re-election in 2018.
Eisen tells ScienceInsider that he’s one of a growing number of scientists who, in response to the election of President Donald Trump, have decided that their political activism has to rise above simply lobbying for more funding. “Too much of the scientific establishment looks at the government as a bank—that the primary thing we should worry about is can we get the right amount of money out of Congress,” he says. “Too few people focus on the fact that science needs to be a partnership with the public for it to thrive.”
Eisen has a long history of speaking out, sometimes colorfully, on scientific issues. In a December 2016 post on his blog, “it is NOT junk” (the title refers to stretches of DNA that regulate genes and once were thought to be worthless), Eisen urged then–President-elect Trump to replace Francis Collins, head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), who he lambasted for favoring “big science.” He has called Eric Lander, head of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “an evil genius”; Eisen believes an essay Lander wrote in Cell overemphasized the role that Broad scientists played in inventing the genome-editing tool CRISPR. Eisen’s frequent tweets often sizzle. A new Twitter account, @SenatorPhD, is quickly amassing followers.