An open letter to Rick Perry from 500 Women Scientists

We are Scientists, We are Women,

We are promoting science and innovation.

Governor Perry, welcome to the Department of Energy, an agency that leads the world in scientific discovery and innovation. You are now leading thousands of DOE employees and contractors and are in charge of charting the course for this indispensable enterprise. The stated mission of the DOE is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. What a cool and important mission for you to lead!

As the long-time and successful former governor of Texas, you understand the benefits of an all-of-the-above energy strategy and the need for secure, resilient, and environmentally sustainable energy that enables a growing economy while protecting human health. Texas is rapidly developing renewable energy, something you championed for your 14 years as governor and an endeavor that benefited greatly from DOE and taxpayer support. Today, the Lone Star State leads the nation in installed wind energy capacity, getting on average 13% of its total power from wind, and has set records for renewable wind power generation. The state employs over 24,000 in wind related jobs and houses nearly 40 wind energy manufacturing facilities. Solar resources in Texas are also vast and rapidly being deployed.

Texas is also blessed with a booming oil and gas sector, thanks in large part to the research and development on hydraulic fracturing conducted at the DOE in the 1970s and 1980s. With a large and diverse energy portfolio that both benefits from DOE-funded innovation and supports the growth of local economies, Texas could hardly be a better training ground for someone about to step into the role of Energy Secretary.

Because of your experience as Governor, we know that you understand the importance of the technological breakthroughs and continual innovation that the DOE enables. Innovation fuels the U.S. to lead the inevitable clean energy revolution. We hope that you will safeguard and support DOE’s mission in the following ways:

  1. Preserve and support programs that aim to cut carbon emissions. Climate change is not going away, and the consensus of the scientific community is that carbon-based pollution is its main cause. Most of the world accepts this. If we do not continue to develop clean technology here in the U.S., other countries will take the lead, and we will be buying their technology in the near future instead of making our own. China, for one instance, has announced its intent to become a “clean energy superpower”, and already outspends the U.S. in clean energy investment. The Department of Energy plays a critical role in funding cleaner technologies across the board and can help the U.S. keep the lead in global clean energy innovation.
  2. Support current efforts at DOE to speed up the commercialization of clean energy technologies. The cutting edge technologies that DOE has supported have the potential to create jobs across the country and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans. And since American tax dollars pay for these innovations, it is only fair that Americans reap the benefit of DOE’s energy research by enabling these developments to reach the market.
  3. Do not discount the value of an all-of-the-above national energy strategy. From developing better, more efficient buildings, to coordinating the buildout of electric vehicle infrastructure, to advancing energy storage solutions and modernizing the grid, DOE’s work is far-reaching and often fills the gaps left by industry and academia. Many fields rely on the Department to provide the research, standards, protocols and other necessities that no other entity provides but that benefit everyone, including industry and the public. You know first-hand how such a strategy can benefit the American people.
  4. Do not stifle innovation! Innovation drives the U.S. economy and is at the core of DOE’s work. Across the agency and the national labs, ideas that will change our country for the better are being generated, developed and deployed. With your support, we can continue to provide new ideas and technologies that will provide safe, reliable, and affordable energy for everyone in the U.S.
  5. Maintain DOE’s involvement in basic scientific research, including efforts like the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). The United States is still the leader in scientific exploration, and investment in such research generates more GDP than any other long-term federal program. Recommit to making the DOE a world leader in scientific research investment — an investment that is not practical for the private industry to make.
  6. Protect DOE employees and their scientific integrity. DOE employees are committed to the mission and passionate about serving our nation. Many have dedicated years of public service to ensuring all Americans have access to safe and reliable energy. They are experts and their institutional knowledge is critical for the DOE mission. Encourage the DOE employees to ask questions and seek knowledge, and know that they work for the greater good. They are excited to meet you and share the work they love.

We are heartened to hear that you intend to implement the DOE Scientific Integrity Policy and to protect all science and scientists working at DOE. After all, the Department of Energy is first and foremost an institution of science and engineering. The DOE invests more in basic scientific research than any other agency or industry in the country, and sponsors 17 national labs throughout the country. Having your unequivocal support is great news for the thousands of DOE employees, scientists and non-scientists alike; folks who carry out the hard and thankless work of the innovation, discovery, and deployment that pushes our country forward.

By the way, many of the employees who now call you their boss are women scientists, a diverse group that are eager to discover, innovate, and contribute to the DOE mission and to the success of the U.S. You can support the women who work at DOE by promoting equality in pay and encouraging the DOE to provide family-friendly work environments, including provisions for paid maternity and paternity leave. These actions not only support the women who work at DOE but they also help ensure that all ideas are valued within the agency.

We are glad to hear that you no longer want to defund this most critical agency you are now tasked with running. We ask you to protect the scientists and funding for the agency under your lead, and to strengthen existing programs to ensure that scientific exploration and innovation continues to thrive in the United States.


500 Women Scientists