Scientists across the nation park experiments to protest

by Michael Sikand, Aquila Asst. News Editor

On April 22 and Earth Day 2017, thousands of scientists and their supporters across the country donned their lab coats not to conduct research, but to march on Washington, DC, among other major cities, to emphasize the importance of rooting government policies in science.

Organizers for this march, the March for Science, created a website and a Facebook page that engaged hundreds of thousands of people prior to the event and inspired over 600 satellite marches and more than 170 scientific organizations to partner with the march’s mission.

“We are building a broad, nonpartisan, and diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who stand up for science,” the event’s website reads. “We are advocating for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

Plans for the event were born after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and were further inspired by the massive international Women’s March that took place the day after. As tweets proposing a scientific protest circulated the social media sphere, a group of researchers got together to materialize their vision.

Many scientists have felt as if their guiding discipline has come under attack since Trump’s inauguration. Since assuming office, Trump has signed an executive order rejecting President Barack Obama’s emissions policies, expressed interest in exiting the landmark international Paris climate agreement and appointed climate change skeptic Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While many researchers saw the march as a valuable opportunity to take a powerful stance against research budget cuts, threatened agencies, censorship and “alternative facts,” others in the scientific community expressed concern that science, an objective concept, has been politicized as a result.

Dolan Dworak (11) expressed criticism for the march. He worried that in the wake of the event, scientists would be more easily targeted as a politically-aligned, special interest group.

“The rejection of clearly provable scientific facts by certain political pundits merges politics and sciences,” he said. “Although the reckless disregard for scientific fact by certain political wings will inevitably have detrimental policy impacts, the March for Science—even unintentionally—contributes to the increased partisan fracturing within American society.”

Many members of the upper school’s WiSTEM Club and Green Team attended the San Jose demonstration. Amy Jin, WiSTEM president, reflected on the march as a whole.

“I think it’s a positive thing; it’s just that I feel like maybe the march shouldn’t have been so political. A lot of people I feel like came, people came protesting more against the Trump administration rather than advocating for science and science education overall,” she said. “I didn’t expect so many people to be there, it was a really unique experience to be around so many people marching for a common cause.”

Dr. Anita Chetty, upper school science chair, thinks that the march was important at a time when the future of research is in question.
“I think that banding together, although it does cause division, banding together and saying ‘this is what we all believe’ — only when you are directly impacted are you going to be able to understand what’s at stake. Everything from funding all the way to reporting of data and findings — the very core of what science really is, which is to be able to report what you’ve learned,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that people don’t feel right now as if they have any other way of expressing their viewpoint. I think that personally maybe people are feeling as though unless they themselves are there expressing it that maybe either they won’t be heard or it will not be reported.”