25 Apr 2017   |   News

You marched for science – what now?

The March for Science was an unprecedented show of solidarity and protest against the rise of “anti-science” and alternative facts. Back in the lab, here are some suggestions for how the momentum can be maintained

You carried a funny sign, wore the teeshirt, covered yourself in buttons and took to the streets.

But with the March for Science over, what now?

It’s the key question that remains after an unprecedented show of solidarity on Saturday which saw tens of thousands of scientists and their supporters take to the streets all over the world.

The task they now face is to channel the fervour of this new, organic protest into action that produces sustained political support for the sciences.

But where do you start when there are so many issues you care about, and so many groups doing important science which needs funding?

A blueprint created by the official March for Science team walks through different ways to carry the momentum forward.

Here’s a short complementary list:

Cover the basics

Keep in touch with the organisers – and the more than 220 official science organisations estimated to have supported the march – to see what they’re planning next. Sign up for their newsletters.

Already, some next-step ideas are floating around in Brussels. Sofie Vanthournout, director of Sense about Science EU, who spoke at the march, says, “There [is] some chat about a 'pint of science' in Brussels for the expat community. The Free University of Brussels already has a science bar, but that's in Dutch.”

Pick an issue and decide you’re going to act on it

A unifying cause of the protest was to show resistance to those in power who deny or dismiss science and evidence.

This covers a vast array of issues, from climate change to genetically modified organisms and the safety of vaccines, raising questions about how to maintain a cohesive movement.

Form the many issues which require more public support, work out what you care about most and where you could have most impact.

Consider a recurring donation to a science charity or education group you like, or get into more scraps with people on Twitter and Facebook you disagree with.

Get to know the policy wonks

A test of the staying power of the “Science not Silence,” rallying cry is whether the interaction between the science community and politicians increases. 

Get to know the officials in your country who are mad for science, or some of the 67 MEPs sitting on the Industry, Research and Energy committee – they help to decide where huge chunks of science funding goes. They also do useful outreach to the scientific establishment with an annual ‘job-swap’ between the two professions.

You could also find an EU civil servant working in your field and suggest meeting for a coffee, or send an email to EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas (he promised his door is open).  

Politely harangue anyone with power of the purse – make sure they do not get a clear runway to write laws or withdraw funding on issues you care about.

Keep delivering the goods

The march was criticised by some who said the tradition of keeping the sciences out of the messy practice of politics should be maintained.

These misgivings will remain, but something everyone can agree on is that scientists’ biggest impact will continue to be felt in the lab.

Researchers should maintain the bulk of their energies here, forging the next unignorable advances.