What started out as a Washington DC march against US president Donald Trump’s policies - and in particular his proposal to cut billions in funding for scientific research - has swelled to into over 500 marches planned for more than 35 countries on Saturday, 22 April.
Several marchers told Science|Business why they are taking to the street:
It is not my natural inclination to take to the streets and raise my voice in protest. I much rather prefer a balanced and thoughtful discussion. However, given the current global situation, I felt very strongly that I could no longer just sit still. It sounds a bit dramatic to say that “science is under attack”, but in a way that is the situation we are facing.
To me as a scientist, it has been shocking to see how easily “alternative facts” (that very expression sends shivers down my spine) can infest the news and essentially spread like wildfire. If political leaders and policy makers do not base their decisions on logical reasoning and available empirical evidence, then what message are we sending to the general public?
The march is about much more than the actions of the Trump administration, or a single issue such as climate change. It concerns the very core of what has allowed humanity to prosper. All innovation is based on experimentation and the ongoing quest for basic scientific knowledge - from improved diagnostics and medication to the smartphones in our pockets and GPS navigation.
We should not take any of that for granted, nor should we let it be overruled by ignorance and scientific illiteracy. And that is why I march.
Renée van Amerongen, associate professor, University of Amsterdam
“I am marching for science to stress the point that science is not a profession, it is not someone doing work for some funding, but that science is to benefit everyone and can be contributed to by everyone in the EU.”
Egon Willighagen, assistant professor at the department of bioinformatics, Maastricht University
I'm an oncologist and basic science cancer researcher specialising in children's cancers. One in five kids diagnosed with cancer today will not survive, which is unacceptable. I'm marching because I believe that research is the key to finding treatments that are more effective and less toxic. Research not only helps children and adults with cancer, it also creates jobs, fosters innovation and fuels the biotech industry. I'm hoping that's something everyone can support.
James Amatruda, associate professor of pediatrics, molecular biology and internal medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
In the words of Albert Einstein: “[A]ll our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike – and yet it is the most precious thing we have.” I will join the march in Brussels to stand up for science as the best way we have to find out about the universe that we are part of.
We can't take the further development of science for granted: it requires a society that is interested in supporting science and an administration that knows that science can't be managed by direct, political interference. The current administration in the US seems to counter rather than to promote science, and this worries me.
Science is a global endeavour, so damage done abroad will reverberate everywhere. I march to show that we are vigilant, willing to speak up when harm is done to this common good, and to show that we are willing to keep the flame of science burning in Europe.
Sylvia Wenmackers, physicist and philosopher, Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven
I think this march is important, not for science itself, but for society. We need society to have access to the best ideas. And we need to make sure that important decisions in society are based on facts. Politicians and anybody making a claim that can affect our society, need to be responsive to such questions and need to be able to show that they have considered the evidence when taking decisions.
With more transparency and more accountability, citizens can get truly involved in decision making.
Sofie Vanthournout, Director of Sense about Science EU
There are so many reasons to march in support of science, but my biggest reasons are related to the public perception of scientists and ensuring that children are given a thorough science education. I think the biggest problem that we face with the public perception is that we appear as elitist and uncaring people giving people new restrictions every week. If we can humanise science and scientists and demonstrate that we understand that change is hard but is ultimately for the best, then we can fight back against science denial movements with more compassion.
There have been problems (in the US at least) that stem from this disconnect with science that have caused limitations in school science curricula. If the government limits what science is taught in publicly funded schools, then we will lose critical thinkers and innovators of the future.
Veronica Allen, PhD student, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen