The March for Science made big news last year, when supporters and enthusiasts around the country flooded the streets of DC and their own cities. Featuring witty signs, catchy slogans, 'teach-ins", prominent speakers, and of course lots of marching, the March has become an annual tradition.
But not all scientists and members of the scientific community joined in the efforts. The March's slogan was "out of the labs and into the streets," but many scientists chose to stay in their labs. In this two-part series I'll weigh the pros and cons of the effort, starting with the pros:
Science, in general, has faced decades of funding cuts and budgetary uncertainty. Simultaneously, public sentiment, trust, and appreciation of science appears to be at an all-time low. It's time to wake up! Science doesn't exist in a vacuum - we are embedded in our communities. If we refuse to leave our ivory towers, we run the very real risk of the towers getting demolished. We need to show our communities that we're real human beings with feelings and dreams and, you know, faces.
Additionally, scientists are surrounded by science enthusiasts and fans, who may not practice science professionally but hold the methods and results of science in a special place in their hearts. If the apparatus of science depends on public funding, then we absolutely need to engage and activate those core supporters, so that they can convince their friends and - hopefully - legislators that science is awesome and we shouldn't turn off the funding tap. Scientists are somewhat busy, and we need our supporters to aid in this essential work.
Lastly, scientists themselves are excellent communicators, but in the specialized jargon and math of their field. We need to show the world that we're not alone, that non-scientists can enjoy and appreciate our work, and that what we do is in ultimate service to the world. By showing our communities the amount of support we have, and the solidarity of that support, we can more effectively do our jobs and serve our mission.
So with all that, get out and march! Or not...