Apr 21, 2017

Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 400 other cities

The March for Science is not a partisan event. But it's political. That's the recurring message of the organizers, who insist that this is a line the scientific community and its supporters will be able to walk. It may prove too delicate a distinction, though, when people show up in droves on Saturday with their signs and their passions.

"We've been asked not to make personal attacks or partisan attacks," said honorary national co-chair Lydia Villa-Komaroff, in a teleconference this week with reporters. But Villa-Komaroff, who will be among those given two-minute speaking slots, quickly added: "This is a group of people who don't take well being told what to do."

The Science March, held on Earth Day, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the Mall, and satellite marches have been planned in more than 400 cities on six continents.

The crowd will gather on Saturday near the Washington Monument for five hours of speeches and teach-ins, culminating in the march at 2 p.m. The march will follow Constitution Avenue along the north edge of the Mall to the foot of Capitol Hill.

Many mainstream science organizations — such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Chemical Society — have signed on, despite their lack of experience in going to the barricades.

Rush Holt, head of AAAS, said there was initial hesitation about whether this was the kind of event a scientist ought to be joining but that members of his association overwhelmingly support the decision to participate.

This is not simply a reaction to President Trump's election, Holt said. Scientists have been worried for years that "evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking." Long before Trump's election, people in the scientific and academic community  raised concerns about the erosion of the value of expertise and the rise of pseudoscientific and anti-scientific notions. Science also found itself swept up into cultural and political battles; views on climate science, for example, increasingly reflect political ideology.

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Washington Post

By Joel AchenbachBen Guarino and Sarah Kaplan