On April 20th, thousands of protesters gathered in Washington D.C. and over 600 other cities across the world for the March for Science. It was a response to a president who suggested climate change was a hoax during his campaign, and has proposed drastic cuts to various scientific fields since he assumed office. But did the march achieve its goals? And what’s next in the fight to defend science? Emily Dixon has the story.
DIXON: In New York City, science marchers gathered from Central Park West to Trump Tower at Columbus Circle, chanting and holding signs. One reads, “Don’t make the nerds angry”; another, “Without science, we’d still be casting spells on the Black Death.”
AMBI: We love science chant.
ALMEDA: Well, I feel that science is important, facts are important, and we need to fight for them.
DIXON: That’s Anna Almeda, who’s a nurse. She’s wearing a flower crown, and holding a banner showing Lady Justice, Mother Nature and Lady Liberty. Almeda says it demonstrates how they’re all interconnected.
Meanwhile, 12-year-old Isaac Kruger’s sign has a message for the president.
KRUGER: It says ‘not my resident’ and it has the earth saying that to Trump.
DIXON: He’s marching in defense of one specific field.
KRUGER: I believe in global warming and I believe we should do something about it.
DIXON: Many scientists are marching to draw attention to the importance of their work, like neurobiologist Elisa Dias, who says she’s afraid the general public doesn’t see the value in her field.
DIAS: I think it’s important the population realizes that science is a vital part of life. People take for granted a lot of what we do, and a lot of what science does for humanity.
DIXON: The central Washington D.C. March was co-organized by Caroline Weinberg, a New York based public health researcher.
WEINBERG: I got involved in it because I have a friend who is a climate science educator who was told that she couldn’t talk about her research anymore.
DIXON: Though Weinberg’s work focuses on medicine and public health, she was motivated to organize by threats spanning the scientific field.
WEINBERG: All science is under attack at the moment. The one that gets the most play is climate change, and environmental research, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The melting iceberg.
DIXON: Two weeks after the march, she’s not ready to determine whether it achieved its goals.
WEINBERG: To the degree that what I was really aiming for with the march was to draw attention to the cause and have a big global moment with it, it definitely did. To the degree that the end game of the march is to create lasting change, we won’t really know the answer to that for like a year.
DIXON: One of the march’s great successes, she says, is that 70% of the protesters didn’t actually work in science. That’s important to Weinberg, because she says increased communication between scientists and the broader public is vital. But on of the biggest criticisms of the march while it was being planned, alongside concerns about its diversity and inclusivity, is that it would politicize a field that’s supposed to be neutral and objective. Even some attendees expressed their concerns, like Tina Su, who’s studying immunology at Yale.
SU: I think this march shouldn’t be partisan-based. It’s really important that science is depoliticized. Unfortunately, this march has become politicized to a certain point.
DIXON: But others have argued that science is inevitably political, though not necessarily partisan, since its practice is governed by policies and budgets determined in Washington. Caroline Weinberg doesn’t consider the Trump approach to science a new development:
WEINBERG: The truth is, anti-science policies have been around for decades, and this march could have been organized ten years ago, fifteen years ago – this is not a new concept. But the idea that it’s gotten so blatant and so severe that thousands of people around the world decided to devote three months of their lives to organizing a march for science, and for facts, I mean, it’s mindboggling.
DIXON: But what happens now the protest is over? The March for Science website has a host of suggestions to sustain the pro-science momentum, including supporting professional advocacy societies, signing an ‘Environmental Voter Pledge’, or even hosting a science-themed game night. The organizers’ biggest hope? That protesters will keep fighting for science, long after they’ve put their signs away.
Emily Dixon, Columbia Radio News.