The world’s first March for Science will be held on Saturday 22 April, led by a flagship event in Washington DC in the United States, and satellite events in 514 locations across the world.
The march was triggered by anger at the dismissal of scientific evidence on climate change by Donald Trump during the US presidential election campaign and under his administration, cuts to research institutions' funding, and wider fears internationally of a growing trend of politicians dismissing the findings of academic experts as the work of a self-interested elite.
The flagship event will take place on the National Mall in Washington DC on April 22 and the marches worldwide will be the first step in the global movement to defend the vital role science plays in everyday life, including in health, safety, economies and governments, the organisers said in a press statement.
“Science and scientists, and evidence-based policies are under attack. Policymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence when crafting policy, threatening scientific advancement through budget cuts, and limiting the public’s knowledge by silencing scientists,” said Caroline Weinberg, national co-chair, March for Science.
“On April 22, scientists and science supporters will unite worldwide to protest these actions. Thousands of people in more than 500 cities around the world will march together in support of science’s role in society and policy and to ensure our future.”
The positive message Weinberg wants to get across is that scientific discovery and innovation are a “critical part of our nation and our future -- science extends our lives, protects our planet, puts food on our table, contributes to the economy, and allows us to communicate and collaborate with people around the world".
A key trigger for the march is the assault on science being led by senior members of the new US administration, and Trump’s campaign pledge to remove the US from the Paris climate accord on the grounds that global warming is “bullshit” and a “hoax” created “by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”.
As reported in University World News, one of the first acts of the Trump administration in the US was to delete references to global warming from the websites of principal research centres such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, leading to fears that crucial data will be lost.
In late February, newly appointed chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, vowed to roll back regulations in a “very aggressive way”. These include the Clean Power Plan that requires states to cut carbon emissions and the US methane ruling which limits emissions from oil and gas installations on federal land.
Pruitt has previously sued the agency he now leads a dozen times while he was Oklahoma Attorney General, according to Reuters, and has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change.
A statement published on the website for the march outlining its mission says: "People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings.
"We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely. Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science."
Scientists, science advocates, educators and concerned citizens will march on April 22 at 514 satellite events – a number that continues to grow as the march date nears.
Organisers have partnered with over 170 organisations to make an impact throughout the world, including Earth Day Network, the American Association for the Advancement of Science or AAAS, the American Geophysical Union, the National Science Teachers Association, and Carnegie Science.
AAAS said as a partner it is seeking to promote the importance of science and its vital place in the nation’s policy-making process.
“The March for Science is a unique opportunity to communicate the importance, value and beauty of science, showcasing efforts to increase public support for science and highlighting the conditions necessary for science to thrive,” said Rush Holt, AAAS chief executive officer. “We encourage AAAS members and affiliated organisations to ‘be a force for science’ by participating in the March for Science and making it positive, non-partisan, inclusive and diverse.”
Christine McEntee, executive director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union, said: “This moment is bigger than the scientific community. It is truly an important moment for all people, not just scientists, to make a strong statement in support of policy that is informed by evidence-based science, and to promote the free and open exchange of ideas, innovation and discovery, diversity and inclusion, and to stand up for the people and programs who make it possible.”
Kristian Aloma, director of the March for Science Chicago, said: “Chicago is a science city, and we look forward to joining communities throughout the world marching in support of science that can help answer the important questions that affect us all.”
While by far the largest number of marches will take place in the US, internationally marches are being organised on every continent, with many across Europe, but others across Latin America, Australia and Africa.
A March for Science in London, UK – where dismissal of the findings of experts was a feature of the Brexit campaign – will rally in Parliament Square, despite it being the scene of a terrorist attack just three weeks ago.
In France, where 15 marches are being held, the situation of the sciences is also a driving force behind the marches. Funding is in constant decline, employment of young researchers is precarious and universities and research organisations are increasingly less well financed.
In Germany, Claudio Paganini, organiser of the March for Science Berlin, said: “Defending science, innovation, and discovery is an absolute must in every community throughout the world. We are proud to join each of the marches on April 22 to say in one, unified, global voice that science is essential to our futures.”
The German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD, also issued a message of support. DAAD President Professor Margret Wintermantel said: "We must renew the appreciation for science. Presumptions or opinions must be clearly distinguished from scientifically obtained knowledge. Every day countless scientific and research institutions around the world work on this and contribute to their knowledge.”
She also warned that the important questions of our time require intensive cooperation across the borders of countries. Answers can only be found if scientists are free to research and cooperate with each other all over the world. “If this is not possible – if individual researchers are personally harassed or persecuted – we are all affected. There is no alternative to international cooperation and we have to argue for it.”
The March for Science, Australia is being organised in 10 cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, under the slogan 'science, not silence', to “celebrate the public discovery, distribution and understanding of scientific knowledge as crucial to the freedom, success, health and safety of life on this planet”.
Those interested in learning more about the March for Science and how to participate can visit www.marchforscience.com.
Marching for science and its importance for democacry
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