We marched for science this past Saturday, April 22nd. Scientists in Cambridge, Boston, and all over the world ventured into the streets this weekend to remind the world how important science is to our society, and how strong we can be when we unite.
Those advocating for cutting science funding probably won’t disagree that science greatly enriches our society and is interlaced throughout almost every aspect of our modern lives. This includes our electronics and medical treatments down to mundane things like microwaves, car engines, and shampoos. At least we hope that no one would disagree that these good things were made possible by science. Perhaps the more difficult point is convincing Congress and many others that basic research — science done for the sake of knowledge, with no obvious practical applications — is worth pursuing. The countless examples of basic research leading to advances beneficial to society have been documented elsewhere and include things like the invention of the GPS and discovery of penicillin.
While some have questioned the wisdom of scientists being activists, we strongly feel that scientists do need to advocate for their work. No, biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, sociology, and other fields of scientific inquiry are not political in and of themselves. But the sciences don’t exist in a vacuum: they are done by people, who operate in a society, which is political. The policies we scientists are advocating for include public funding of basic research, access to education, and protection of the environment. We scientists are not necessarily aligned with the left or the right. We are just as outraged by the far right’s denial of climate change as we are by the far left’s rejection of GMOs and vaccines. We are aligned with data and reason. We hope that the March will serve as a push for scientists to unite and advocate for their work and our planet. Perhaps the silver lining of the present day attack on reason and facts will be that scientists will take on more prominent roles in showing the world the wonder behind their work, the beauty of nature, and the responsibility humans have in protecting the planet.