TS Picks: April 20, 2017

March for Science edition

Tracy Vence
Apr 20, 2017

Scene at the “Stand Up for Science” event in Boston, February 19, 2017TRACY VENCE

Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • Will you be marching for science on April 22? On Facebook, dozens of The Scientist’s readers have indicated that they will. Cartoonist Jorge Cham of PHD Comics has created a humorous flowchart to help undecided scientists choose whether to attend a March for Science.
  • The New York Times spoke with scientists and supporters of science who are and are not attending a March for Science, including some US federal government employees who said they planned to participate but requested anonymity, “fearing retaliation in the current administration.” Despite the potential risks, “persistent advocacy now by people like me is needed both to reinforce the value of science to all people and to help salvage continuity of scientific progress and careers for the next generation of innovators,” microbiologist and immunologist Alice Telesnitsky of the University of Michigan Medical School told The New York Times.
  • Nature also spoke with science supporters who are and are not marching in Washington, DC, or at a satellite event this weekend. David Leaf, a biologist at Western Washington University, said he will attend and that he hopes the event “will send a message to Congress that there are a significant fraction of voters who consider supporting science and scientists to be high priority.” Postdoc Nathan Gardner of the University of Chicago School of Medicine said he will sit this one out because he feels that the event “could easily politicize science because, even though the march’s mission statement isn’t anti-Trump, the marchers seem anti-Trump.”
  • Saturday’s gathering is not just about the Trump administration, DC March for Science honorary co-chair Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a biologist and biotech executive, told STAT News. “President Trump’s policies certainly sparked the feeling that we need to have a strong voice for science,” she said. “But I think that the organizers have been pretty clear that this is a pro-science movement that looks far beyond the current administration.”
  • Political scientist Hahrie Han of the University of California, Santa Barbara, told The Atlantic that march turnouts and fundraising totals are proxies for the political influence of this weekend’s worldwide events. “The March for Science is trying to develop scientists as a political constituency with a collective voice,” said Han. “One of the ways they can do that is to show that they have the capacity to move votes, or shape the interests of the elected officials they’re trying to influence.”
  • After the march, what’s next? “We have no intention of letting this stop after April 22,” DC March for Science co-organizer Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher in New York City, told The New York Times. “I will have considered it pretty much a failure if after April 22 all of this movement and all of this passion dissipates.”
  • In The Guardian, Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization that has partnered with the flagship event, opined that, “in many ways, the March for Science is already a success.” Halpern pointed to scientists participating in advocacy for the first time as one example. The marches in the U.S. and abroad are “spawning a new generation of scientists who see public engagement as a responsibility,” he wrote.

Reporters from The Scientist will be covering March for Science events in Berlin, Chicago, and DC. Check for our coverage—on the-scientist.com, Facebook, and Twitter—starting April 22.

Further reading:

Sociologists to Study the March for Science
Researchers hope to use the upcoming event as an opportunity to examine the social science of political activism among science supporters.

Opinion: After We March
How to become—and stay—involved in science policy

The Science of Science Advocacy
Should researchers advocate for the inclusion of science in public policymaking?

March for Science Gains Support from Scientific Societies
AAAS and more than 25 scientific societies throw their support behind the event.

Marching for Science, from Berlin to Sydney
Satellite marches across the globe aim to stand in solidarity with US scientists and highlight issues in their home countries.

Opinion: Sometimes, Scientists Must March
Lessons learned from the “Death of Evidence” demonstration in Canada

Opinion: Should Scientists Engage in Activism?
Scientists who accept funding with the tacit agreement that they keep their mouths shut about the government are far more threatening to an independent academy than those who speak their minds.

Will a March Help Science?
As scientists and science advocates plan demonstrations in Washington, DC, and around the world, some question the ability of such activism to enact change.

See “Science Policy in 2017