Military recruiting at the 2015 Experimental Biology convention.
Curiously placed among the “Publishers” in the Exhibition Hall at the 2015 Experimental Biology Convention in Boston was the Army Medical Recruiting table.
Military recruiters are ubiquitous in high schools (the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 section 9528 stated that military recruiters must be allowed in high schools and must be given student home contact information or the school could lose federal funding.) They are present in colleges and universities, where the targets’ brains are closer to maturity, and where there is still occasionally protest about their presence.
During and for several decades after the Vietnam War, many scientists refused to take military money for research, but no dissent was shown at this conference. Most passing scientists didn’t seem to notice the table or the 2 soldiers staffing it. But really, how could they miss the incongruity of a gigantic photo of a soldier with gun among the books and journals?
The Army section that was recruiting was the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in nearby Natick. Its mission is to “Provide solutions to optimize Warfighter health and performance through medical research,” and the vision is “Recognized by the Department of Defense as the trusted leader in medical research for Warfighter health and performance optimization.”
Many partners are listed, from military, universities, and companies. For some, helping with the US’s constant wars might be deliberate and idealogical, but money is probably the main motivator: over half of the discretionary US budget goes to war, even as the NIH and NSF budgets barely move. This ready money has blinded scientists to the implications of taking Department of Defense (DoD) money for their research.
There are 4 research divisions in USARIEM, and glossy pamphlets were available for each: Biophysics & Biomedical Modeling, Military Nutrition, Military Performance, and Thermal & Mountain Medicine. From traumatic brain injury to improving soldier’s running styles (!), the projects range from the mundane to the tragic, with a presumptive trickle-down benefit to civilians. Or not- do civilians even matter, these days?
We need to think more about war, and science’s (and our own) place in that war. We might have a range of opinions, but we need to be thoughtful and deliberate about participation in something as devastating and all-encompassing as war.