Vision:  The Citizen Scientists of California

Toward a Better Life in California

Their aggregate years of university education exceed 120 centuries and cost more than $50 million to attain. They hold graduate degrees in virtually every scientific discipline, specializing in such esoteric areas as nematology, virology, seismology, epidemiology, toxicology and several dozen others.

As taxpaying citizens of California with home mortgages, families and political preferences, they share the hope of the Yuba City farmer and San Diego warehouseman for a better life in California.

However, their years of education and professional roles give these men and women extraordinary vision. Some have watched the slow rise of salinity levels in South Bay soils, foreseeing the consequences for California agriculture. Others recognize a surface earthquake fault at first sight, and can offer a reasonable estimate as to when it will again become restive. Still others have witnessed our landfill sites vanish beneath the weight of millions of tons of waste per year, and their vision of the future is one of concerned alarm.

These are the scientists — more than 2500 of them — who work in over 31 departments of California government. Like Sir Isaac Newton, they see farther because they stand on the shoulders of giants: Lavoisier, Harvey, Leeuwenhoek and Priestley. And the work they do provides us all with renewed hope for better food, safer homes and a cleaner environment.

The Scope of the Work

What are the relative benefits and hazards of experiments with engineered bacteria? Can we build an effective earthquake warning system? How do we determine energy needs for the coming decade? How do we reduce smog and toxic chemicals in our air? How can we ensure that the yearly take of fish and game does not endanger wildlife populations? How can we use technology and sound ecological principles to best protect our number one, multibillion-dollar industry—agriculture—from plant pests and diseases? How do we protect our citizens from the health hazards of toxic waste disposal? How do we ensure safety in our workplace environments?

These are but a few of the problems California’s professional scientists confront daily. Finding solutions requires energy, educated insight and dedication. On any given day, California scientists may be hip deep in a contaminated lake, probing the secrets of bacteria with an electron microscope, or poring over ancient archives to document the history of an endangered species. Often, the work demands not only ingenuity but raw courage as well.

The work of state scientists require critical decisions which are based on rigorous scientific fact-finding and ultimately affect the lives and property of all Californians. The contamination of our California air, for example, has been slowed by the burn/not burn decision of a meteorologist. Drinking water is safer because a sanitarian alerted developers to the dangers of toxics precipitating from a landfill. An industrial plant is free of radiation hazards because of a health physicist’s recommendations.

 

CAPS: California Association of Professional Scientists

The California Association of Professional Scientists is an independent association formed solely for the purpose of representing the interests of scientists in California state service. The membership is unified by three fundamental principles:

Professionalism. CAPS is committed to helping individual scientists fulfill their needs as professionals — men and women with roles in the world community of science and with occupational responsibilities as well.

Independence. CAPS members are pledged to pursuing professional courses of action determined without regard to political influences.

Responsible Advocacy. CAPS takes a firm but responsible approach to representing its membership in legislative matters, contract negotiations and individual personnel actions.

Twelve CAPS directors and officers are elected statewide from five districts. CAPS is broadly and effectively representative of the considerable talents and education of the state’s scientific expertise.