On Saturday, April 22, 2017, an unprecedented number of scientists and science enthusiasts turned out around the country to rally and march for science.
I showed up to march (and to help administer a social/political science survey–I helped do science at the science march!) for many reasons. Most importantly, the current political climate has demonstrated how the country has in many ways has devalued science. This devaluation of science is reflected in the proposed budget cuts, but has been evident for many years in the numerous ways in which scientific consensuses have been viewed with unnecessarily skeptical opinions.
This current anti-science (“post-truth”) social climate is not different from the world scientists live in — we all live on the same planet. Society has gotten to where it is because scientists haven’t been vocal, have (generally) avoided politics, and have not taken responsibility for communicating our findings to the general public in a way they can understand. We scientists are in part to blame for the current political climate, and I believe that we need to make up for lost time and start defending what it is we do!
Another important message I hope the March for Science sent is the value of science to society. The programming at the March for Science in Washington, DC did a good job of highlighting the importance of basic science: it has led to many discoveries of economic and public good, all of which would have been impossible to predict. Supporting these basic science research programs is an important part of what has made the US a leader in science. Even though supporting basic research may seem in some ways like a waste of money (because it has no obvious direct benefits), the real benefit of basic research is that it can yield unforeseen and inconceivably transformative results. SCIENCE MATTERS!
The march was inspiring because so many people turned up to show their support for science and science-based policy. Despite the rain, despite concerns about potential backlash for becoming politically engaged, people showed up! And everyone was optimistic and hopeful and excited to be there. I know the job isn’t done, and there is still much to be done to promote science in our society. But the March for Science was an excellent start.