Put a Scientist In Spring Street

Tim_Read_profileLast year I wrote about how proud I was to have a scientist doing ground-breaking work as my local Greens candidate. It wasn’t, however, very likely that Dr Tim Read was going to win Wills, a seat that stretches to places where the party is in single figures. Now Tim is running for Brunswick, and there is a real chance he could win, so it’s time to expand on why I think he is a truly great candidate.

I should say upfront that the most important thing for me is a candidate whose values I share. I would have a lot of difficulty voting for a bad Greens candidate, but I’d vote for a mediocre one over a melissadavisphotography.com.au     more impressive figure from another party.            However, that is not a problem I will have to face this time.

Having met Tim as my local doctor I consider his talent for listening to people’s problems, essential in a good GP, is one of the things that make him well suited to parliament.

Nevertheless, having got to know him later through the Moreland Branch I was surprised when Tim put his hand up to run. I thought he might make a good legislator, but he seemed too self-effacing for the media or public-speaking. The Wills campaign completely satisfied me on that account. Tim is great at communicating a message using a combination of clarity and sly, unexpected humour. Unsurprisingly, one-on-one those GP skills come through.

Tim has now moved into working on sexually transmitted diseases (and if you can make people comfortable in that clinical setting there is probably little that will faze you in politics). More significantly for me, in the course of his PhD he’s been doing cutting edge research on the effectiveness of the Gardasil vaccine (skip the first six paragraphs of the linked story if you just want a summary of his work). While I gave it a run in Australasian Science, I really wish there’d been a paper on this topic timed so I could write it up for I Fucking Love Science – its work that deserves global exposure.

As I discussed in the previous piece I think public health is a greatly undervalued field, and I’d love to see more people with a background there getting into parliament. However, even more, I value the sort of thinking that makes a good scientist.

Not all scientists make good politicians. Not only is there the question of values, but some people managed to gain a Bsc, or even postgraduate qualifications, having missed the whole bit about weighing evidence and attempting to move past prejudice.

Nevertheless, along with the necessary people skills and concern for the future of the planet, I think the capacity to be a really good scientist – to formulate a hypothesis and then develop and change it in the face of evidence – is something that we need much more of in parliament. Tim’s publication list speaks for itself on that account, even if he does like to say he “just got lucky” with the topic of his thesis.

I feel embarrassed that I haven’t done more for Tim’s campaign. A combination of my work for IFLS and student election administration, combined with other roles in the party will make it hard for me to step it up, but I hope that this post can be a small contribution in that direction.

Temporary Update: This post is getting a bit of a run online at the moment, so for the next few days I’ll take the chance to plug the fundraiser for Tim’s campaign on Friday August 1.

Permanent Update: Having accidentally used the photo without attribution I would like to try to make up for this by attributing twice – check out Melissa Davis‘ site – some superb photos there, including the one of Tim speaking at a candidate’s debate.

About Stephen Luntz

I am a science journalist, specialising in Australian and New Zealand research across all fields of science. My book, Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats: A Field Guide to Australian Scientists is out now through CSIRO Publishing. I am also a professional returning officer for non-government organisations. I'm very politically active, but generally try to restrict this blog to scientific matters.
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4 Responses to Put a Scientist In Spring Street

  1. Lenka Thompson says:

    Great post, Stephen. I agree that Tim is a vital and ideal voice to have in politics – he’s certainly a far cry from our current Member for Brunswick and would much easier engaging with someone like Tim on matters of interest. I’m sure Tim is very grateful for all you do contribute on the whole.

  2. Tim Read says:

    Stephen is being modest. He does an enormous amount for the Greens and for an evidence-based future.

  3. Just a heads up that you’re using my photo to promote this. Melissa Davis melissadavisphotography.com.au

  4. Melissa, I am so, so sorry for posting this without credit. I grabbed it off the Green’s website and either didn’t realise it was by someone claiming copyright, rather than a campaign assistant with a really good eye.

    Your photos are magnificent by the way, and I’m rewriting reflect.

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