From Washington to Sydney: People tell us why are taking to the streets to march for science

Scientists and their supporters from all over the world are taking to the streets to join an international March for Science on Saturday.

The march, involving hundreds of thousands of people in more than 400 locations around the world, is being held to recognise the contribution of science and defend its integrity.

March for Science began as a grassroots movement in Washington DC and was planned to coincide with Earth Day as a protest against what the organisers saw as US President Donald Trump’s “anti-science” stance. The event has turned into a global phenomenon, spawning satellite marches around the world and touching on broader issues.

We spoke to researchers and non-scientist supporters to find out why they are marching in the name of science.

Wendy Bohon, earthquake geologist, Washington DC

I got involved with the march because I believe that a bold public gesture showing support for science can make difference in the perception of science and scientists.

I want to raise awareness about the value of science and research because federal science funding and public support for science are critical.

I also hope that the march will raise awareness about the inequalities that still exist within the scientific establishment. Women and other minority groups that have been historically underrepresented in science still face a myriad of problems including gender-based and racial harassment and discrimination. We can do better. We MUST do better.

Organisations like the one I’m a part of 500 Women Scientists – are working hard to make science more inclusive but we need broad support from our friends and allies to ensure that everyone in science has a voice and a seat at the table.

Courtney Marsh, certified nurse-midwife, Virginia

Courtney Marsh.
(Courtney Marsh)

I’m concerned about current political trends that shift priorities regarding both funding for scientific research and removing regulations that protect the environment.

We all benefit from high-quality research backed by peer reviews. For that to happen, scientists need sustainable funding and the freedom to share their information with their colleagues and with the public.

Simply marching won’t create change but it can bring awareness to issues that my fellow citizens – and our political representatives – might not have otherwise known or cared about.

I’m proud to live in a country where I can raise my voice when I care about something, and I want to show my daughters what that looks like.

Anuradha Damale, Physics undergraduate, Durham

Anuradha Damale.
(Anuradha Damale)

This is an event that resonates very strongly with my beliefs that science, and STEM in general, is something governments internationally need to start taking seriously. I’m marching for science because we live in a technology-driven world – and technology is directly associated with progress in innovation. Without investment into innovation, no government should expect to be able to boost or sustain its economy.

The issue in the UK isn’t partisan, it’s about the lack of understanding amongst influential politicians of the role that science has been playing in improving the standard of living of their constituents.

Why should scientific R&D laws and policies be based on political beliefs and agendas?

Amongst all this political drama and back and forth, we are losing sight of the real issues and run the risk of causing some serious damage to the progress of life-changing research – be that related to the environment or to the health and safety of citizens around the world.

Oliver Entwisle, PhD student in condensed matter physics, Edinburgh

Oliver Entwisle.
(Oliver Entwisle)

After never really taking part in any kind of activism, mostly due to indifference, I found myself learning more about science’s presence in society, and wanting to connect with society in a much more meaningful way.

For me, this march is the perfect way to combine both my passion for communicating what science is doing for society, and finding new people in Edinburgh that can teach me something about the world.

A lot of the problems in the world can be traced back to miscommunication and misconceptions about science. I see this all the time, even when talking to my mum about exactly what it is I actually do (she still sometimes thinks it’s something about space, which it really really isn’t).

I want to create an environment in which it’s completely acceptable to ask questions that cause controversy, like ‘why are mice used in medicine research?’, ‘what is there to protect them?’ and ‘what happens to them once the studies are over?’ People should feel free to disagree, but only with all the facts.

Taylor Szyszka, PhD student in biochemistry, Sydney

I was inspired to get involved with the march because I am a scientist and a concerned citizen. It’s frustrating to see the increasingly strained relationship between the scientific community and society.

When I saw the march in Washington DC start circulating it seemed like a great way to unite both scientists and non-scientists.

I think the march has already been successful, even before the actual event. It started the conversation and got people thinking about issues in science and how it impacts their lives. I think the greatest thing we can realistically hope to achieve is getting more people engaged.

There is a divide between the scientific community and the general public and I see the march as a way to bridge that divide. Put simply, we’re all playing on the same team. The march is the perfect opportunity for a team meeting.

Kirsten Nicolaysen, associate geology professor, Washington

Kirsten Nicolaysen.
(Kirsten Nicolaysen)

As an American, I’ve seen with growing dismay that the campaign to discredit science and hear my friends and neighbours speak of science with ambivalence even as they live a very technology-enriched life.

Probably the most meaningful personal story is that the physics of proton therapy saved a close family member from the devastation by cancer. And also, I’ve had a wonderful career researching volcanoes and teaching young adults how to investigate the physical world around them.

It’s impossible to predict which scientist will have a brilliant hypothesis to test or solve a huge problem. This is why it’s so important to invest in the next generation of scientists.

The work of science takes decades and lifetimes to progress. Today we benefit from the work of scientists since Galileo, daVinci, Newton, Hutton and others over the last 400+ years. Our grandchildren will reap the rewards of our investments in science today.

Robin Cathcart, environmental scientist, Edinburgh

Robin Cathcart.
(Robin Cathcart)

I was inspired to help organise the March for Science as soon as I heard about it.

I am a mother of two beautiful children and an environmental scientist, so I know all too well the need for greater care of our Earth. I want my children to breath clean air and drink clean water.

Having been born in the US, I’m extremely worried about the suppression of facts and well-established evidence that is occurring there. While the situation in the UK is clearly better, I’ll be marching with my family because I value the role science plays in our medicine, environment and technologies.

For me, the take-home message for the March for Science is that people and policy makers should listen to scientists. The argument is not about if people are changing the climate, the argument should be what policies we should enact to try and rectify the situation.

Trevor Sloughter, PhD student in ecological modelling, Glasgow

Trevor Sloughter.
(Trevor Sloughter)

I think it (the march) was inevitable. Government cuts and interference with science is nothing new. Ever since I was a child I was deeply invested in science and now that I am a PhD student, I feel it is my duty to march.

Science is both essential to and a right of every citizen. When the government ignores science, from climate change to mental health, it’s not just ignoring scientists, it’s ignoring farmers, nurses, fishermen and teachers.

I hope the government takes note that their constituents are scientists and science advocates and we demand better. I’d hope the wider society takes note that science belongs to everyone and is not just the domain of stuffy old white men in suits.

There’s a long way to go yet, but this has been a major step forward in mobilising the scientific community and engaging with the public, breaking down barriers of academic privilege within and without academia. Perhaps that’s over selling it, but it’s my personal hope that this is just the start.

Angela Carpio, application developer, Minnesota

Angela Carpio.
(Angela Carpio)

Hearing reports that government scientists are not allowed to discuss their research and the possibility of large budget cuts to the National Institute of Health and Environmental Protection Agency had me concerned – which was later confirmed. This only solidified my desire to be part of this movement.

That science affects and serves everyone. Climate change is something we should not be ignoring – it will affect our daily lives in ways some don’t even realise. There is research indicating that we can expect to see more airline turbulence and diabetes because of climate change.

I would like to achieve better funding for science not limited to education, public research, and better our futures. I would like scientists to able to freely discuss their research, and for us to listen to the majority not the minority of scientists when they advise us.

Without science, my son’s quality life would be greatly diminished. He has severe persistent asthma, and has had it since he was a baby. A simple cold can send him to the hospital. Without medicine and continued research, my son would not be able to live a fulfilling life or possibly not even be alive.

Corinne Mayes, catering business owner, London

Corinne Mayes.
(Corinne Mayes)

I’ve always had a keen interest in natural sciences with a fascination and love for animals and nature since I was a small child. As an adult, I’ve continued to learn as much as I can about many aspects of science and enjoy chatting to and learning from my scientist friends of which there are many.

Science is all around us. It is everywhere and is fundamental for the survival of this planet, without it we would not exist.

My cousin and I are amateur genealogists having studied our family history on both sides of our families back to the 1600s and in doing so my cousin discovered that Isaac Newton is our first cousin 10 generations back, which as you can imagine was a pretty epic find.

I believe we as the human race are at a pivotal point in our existence. We have the knowledge and the technology to survive and yet also to destroy this planet and our very existence is under threat with climate change denial from the US administration and uncertainty in Europe and other parts of the world.

Jennifer Paragas Teves, researcher at Veritas Technologies, Minnesota

Jennifer Paragas Teves.
(Jennifer Paragas Teves)

I think, as a scientist, I am responsible for spreading scientific facts not just to my immediate family but also to the larger community. That is why I decided to get involved with the march. My niece and nephews inspired me to get involved.

I hope the campaign will help highlight the issues on “alternative facts” and what risks are involved if the wrong information gets in the hands of individuals who are not able to verify their sources.

For me, this march is personal in all aspects. Being a scientist is what defines me as a person and I apply the scientific process in any decision I make and opinions I form to keep myself in check for potential biases.

The march is about taking a stand so my niece and nephews can see us standing up for their future. And as a child who was born prematurely by a mother who was shot in the head on her way to the hospital – I am alive because of science.

 

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