Taking it to the Streets: Science experts and enthusiasts organize in support of democratic and data-conscious policy

By Jae Bradley

Every year, the United States celebrates Earth Day to commemorate the dawn of the modern environmental movement that began on April 22, 1970. This was a day when colleges and universities held rallies to emphasize the importance of environmentally-conscious industry and recreation. This year, concerned citizens plan to gather for a march in the nation’s capital, highlighting the essential role of public scientific knowledge in modern society. According to http://www.marchforscience.com, people of “all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities” plan to participate. The march is presented as a unifying effort, one in which it will be made clear that democracy in America has become irrevocably linked to its scientific community.

As a new administration begins, many Americans have expressed a sense of apprehension about the relationship between the scientific community and today’s government policy. For example, concern has mounted with recent incidents involving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Agency employees have been given gag orders, barring them from sharing information with the media. Furthermore, a temporary halt was placed on EPA grant funding, suspending research. “Time” magazine suggests that experts in science feel that their work is threatened by the administration. In response, some have marked their calendars for the march.

Others are not too keen on taking such action. Geologist Robert S. Young writes in the “New York Times” that by participating in a march, scientists run the risk of further isolating themselves from the favor of government leaders. It could be counter-productive to present as an “interest group” rather than practitioners of a broad and objective discipline. His view is that these people should instead share their expertise at the local level. To Young, it’s imperative that people meet scientists and get to know their work. This way, the information which they present is viewed not as a mysterious threat created by faceless strangers, but as the result of hard work done by people who benefit the human community.

While they may differ in opinions on the march, it is clear that a large number of scientists share an interest in seeing changes in legislation based upon reputable research.

Citations:

Worland, Justin. Feb 1, 2017. The scientist’s march on washington now has a date. Time Magazine. Retrieved from: http://time.com/4656630/scientists-march-on-washington-date/.

Young, Robert S. Jan 31, 2017. A scientist’s march is a bad idea. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/opinion/a-scientists-march-on-washington-is-a-bad-idea.html?_r=0.

 

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