By Roxanne Lee
The March for Science has been scheduled for April 22, Earth Day, in Washington, D.C.
As with the Women’s March, held January 21, which had over three million participants, the March for Science will also be held in other cities such as Boston and Seattle, and is planned to be held in other countries as well.
The march will be held to encourage interest in science and promote evidence-based policy making. It will be held at the National Mall, in partnership with the Earth Day Alliance. The march is being organized by scientists, but they have repeatedly encouraged that all people who want to help support science are welcome, scientist or not.
It will host featured speakers and teach-in tents, where scientists can share their research with the public. The march is in part for climate change, as that is a hot political issue right now. It will also include such topics as public health and federal funding for research.
The march was started in part by Jonathan Berman, a University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow. He saw a comment on Reddit, a social news and media aggregation website, that said “There needs to be a Scientists March on Washington.” The comment inspired a call to action, both in Berman and in the scientific community as a whole.
The idea of a march of scientists was quick to gain support from others, among them Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher and science writer, who became a co-organizer of the march along with Berman. And before long the march received even wider attention; within 10 hours of its creation the Twitter page gained 30,000 followers, and the Facebook group for participants currently has 800,000 members. The march has also received endorsement from scientific societies, like the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Sociological Association.
The March for Science came about from a series of decisions Trump has made during his first weeks in office concerning science in the U.S. government, none of them good. Even beyond his claim that global warming is a hoax, his administration has erased nearly all mention of climate change programs on the White House and State Department websites.
Trump also froze grants at the EPA as well as other government agencies. The EPA was also put under a gag order, where employees were told not to send out news releases or create social media posts or website content, and they needed to speak with senior officials before speaking to the media. As of Jan. 27, the grant freeze was lifted, but the gag order remained in place. And Trump’s pick for the next head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, as said he would not believe human activity is to blame for global warming.
There has been division as to how to respond to the recent administrative decisions. Many scientists and science supporters are participating in the March for Science, but there are scientists who believe that marching will further politicize science and turn people away from it. There is also concern that Earth Day is not a good day to hold the march, because the politically charged topic of environmental protection will detract from the March’s overall message about protecting scientific integrity and evidence.
The co-organizers of the march have both asserted that the March is not meant to be divisive. Weinberg said in an interview with the radio show Science Friday that the march is non-partisan.
“It’s about getting to the truth,” she said.
Berman repeated similar sentiments in an interview with the New York Times.
“The people making decisions are in Washington, and they are the people we are trying to reach with the message: you should listen to evidence,” he said. The March for Science will not be the last time the mall sees a crowd gathered for science.
The weekend following Earth Day, on Trump’s 99th day in office, environmentalists are planning a march to promote attention for climate change. To learn more about the March for Science, check out marchforscience.com.