09 June 2017

Marching for Science

March for Science signs.
(multiple websites)
Welcome back. In case you were wondering, on Earth Day last April, I joined a few hundred people I’d never met for a nearby city’s March for Science. Lest you think I’m a regular at such events, it’s been almost 50 years since my last rally. That was for civil rights, which had a goal everyone understood.

Why did I and over a million scientists and science advocates march in Washington, DC, and 600 locations worldwide? Topping the list of very important reasons captured in a University of Delaware survey taken before the event were:
-Encourage public officials to make policies based on scientific facts and evidence
-Oppose political attacks on the integrity of science
-Encourage the public to support science
-Protest cuts to scientific research funding
-Celebrate the value of science and scientists to society

As the march organizers’ mission statement stated, 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. 
March for Science sign
Congress and Science
My participation in the march was precipitated by the president’s comments, threats, actions and proposed budget, but my frustration has been simmering for years. I had even drafted a never-used blog post about Congress.

Although these civil servants are rightly a reflection of their constituents, I have a problem when those who have little regard for science and possibly an anti-science agenda hold leadership roles, especially on science-related committees.

Perhaps I should heed a recent guest blog post on Scientific American’s website and drop the anti-science label. These Congressmen may be relying on scientific findings they believe to be credible, such as promoting the 1 in 10 scientist who argues against the consensus regarding climate change or its cause.

Some Congressmen may be denying the relevance of scientific facts, not the facts, on matters such as evolution or same-sex marriage.

Certainly, many in Congress are motivated more by the solutions than by science, such as resisting reductions in carbon dioxide emissions to address climate change. Lobbyists, of course, play a major role, and I’ve already blogged my concern that the same tactics the tobacco industry used have denied climate change as well as the detrimental effects of sugary beverages (Research Sponsor Bias).

Support for Science March
The Pew Research Center surveyed the national response after the March for Science; however, the survey addressed “science marches,” gauging the collective response to the March for Science and the People’s Climate March, held a week later.

The survey found 48% of adults “support” or “strongly support” the goals of the marches, while 26% “oppose” or “strongly oppose” them; 26% don’t know how they feel about them.

More younger adults (ages 18-29) than seniors (65 and older) support the goals, 56% vs. 36%.

Politically, 68% of Democrats and those leaning Democrat support the goals, 14% oppose them; while 47% of Republicans and those leaning Republican support the goals, 25% oppose them. 

March for Science sign
Wrap Up

Will the March for Science have any effect? The Pew survey found the response split on whether the marches will help generate public support for science--44% yes, 44% no; 7% thinking they will actually hurt. Democrats and Democrat leaners as well as younger adults were much more optimistic than Republicans and Republican leaners and seniors.

Younger adults were also much more optimistic than seniors that the marches would encourage policymakers to rely more on scientific experts, raise support for government funding of science and encourage scientists to be more active in civic and public affairs.


March for Science sign
The hope is that everyone who supports science will get engaged--contact your elected officials, vote, support candidates, run for office, work to end gerrymandering. Who knows? If the president’s ratings continue to fall, he may produce a new and different reality show.

Thanks for stopping by.

March for Science mission: www.marchforscience.com/mission/
University of Delaware Center for Political Communications survey: www.cpc.udel.edu/content-sub-site/Documents/march-for-science-study-April%202017.pdf
Scientific American website guest blog: blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/who-are-you-calling-anti-science/
Pew Research Center survey: assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2017/05/12165435/PS_2017.05.11_Science-Marches_FINAL.pdf

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