ASN takes on the March for Science: The society that organizes together, stays together

Authors:  Emlyn Resetarits, Sheela Turbek, Shengpei Wang and Abigail Pastore

Note: The views in this article represent those of the ASN graduate council. 

How to get involved in DC?

You can get organized with other ASN, SSE and SSB members by filling out the survey here.

Looking for a ride?  Hotel sharing?  Want to organize a meet-up with other ecologists and evolutionary biologists?  Get organized in this Google Sheet!

 

Why Get Involved?

On April 22, 2017, thousands of advocates of scientific research will take to the streets in Washington D.C. and around the world through the March for Science to demand government support for the open exchange of scientific ideas. Many of the participants will be scientists themselves, who are concerned with the new administration’s steps to censor the scientific community and deny scientific findings on the basis of personal convictions.

The March for Science and its sister marches around the country have an inclusive mission – to bring together a diverse, non partisan group of people united by their respect for science as a tool for understanding the world around us and their desire to defend scientific integrity. The march seeks to humanize science by showcasing the diverse body of people dedicated to scientific research, encourage open communication between scientists and the public, and advocate for diversity and inclusion in scientific fields. However, above all, the march will be calling for evidence-based legislation that serves the public good.

Since assuming power, the new administration has threatened to roll back numerous environmental regulations originally put in place as a result of scientific findings regarding human and environmental health. The president’s persistent denial of climate change despite scientific consensus has raised fears that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and overturn or weaken legislation enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions. Given the current administration’s ties to the oil and gas industries, many worry that public lands could be sold to private interests and the Endangered Species Act could go under fire, opening up protected habitat to energy development.

Also at stake is the ability of scientists’ to freely carry out research and publicly communicate their findings. In January, for example, a regulation was passed requiring that scientific studies from the EPA undergo political review prior to publication. The federal government froze all agency grants and contracts and imposed a gag rule against EPA employees, prohibiting them from posting on social media and communicating with reporters. The immigration restrictions reinstated by the president last month have additionally hindered scientific progress by jeopardizing international collaborations and leaving many scientists uncertain about whether to attend scientific conferences and conduct international fieldwork.

Historically, scientists have avoided getting involved in political advocacy in order to prevent science from being mischaracterized as a partisan issue. However, with the future of scientific research and evidenced-based policy so uncertain, the scientific community arguably cannot afford to remain silent. The March for Science this April will provide an opportunity for scientists to take a stand and demand continued support for publicly funded, openly communicated research.

 

How to get involved locally?

Getting involved in science policy can feel overwhelming.  How does one even begin to have an influence on such an old and established system?  The first step is to start at home!  Getting your friends and colleagues organized can be tremendously helpful to not only hold yourself accountable, but also by amplifying your voice and actions through your peer group.  Additionally, there are lots of groups that are already organized, finding them in your community means you don’t have to start from scratch.  Finally, contacting your representatives is the cornerstone of our democracy, your congresswomen and men, and senators were elected to represent the will of the people, so let them know what you want!  Find out who your local representatives are and email, call, or meet them in person. Getting on their email list will keep you updated, especially on when and where they can meet with the public. Most congresswomen and men, and senators have town hall style meetings locally that are open to the public, and these are one of the best places to express your concerns.

Creating a political action peer group.  – With so many important issues on the table, it’s challenging for any one individual to be informed and active on every issue.  Getting your friends together to meet, vent and divvy up the work is a great way to manage things.  Luckily technology is readily available to help you organize such an endeavor.  Google groups and google docs help facilitate organizing without the need for excessive emailing.  Use google sheets to outline the issues and have your friends sign up for the issues they want to follow closely and inform the group about.  Have a “weekly actions” to do list or find one online that you can share or divvy up with your friends.  Finally have a weekly/biweekly meeting with your friends in a comfortable space (perhaps with relaxing beverages) where you can vent, share and learn with each other.

Satellite Marches for Science: One easy way to get involved now is to attend the March for Science. Even if you can’t make it to DC, you can still make an impact and contribute to the cause by attending one of the satellite marches that’s close to you. Official information is available at https://www.marchforscience.com/satellite-marches/ . If there’s no local march planned for your city yet, hosting a satellite march is an even better way to get involved!

 

How to get involved digitally?

The power of the media is ever more prominent in our lives now, both personally and professionally, so is making your voices heard through digital platforms. Share your messages on your favorite social media, be it blogpost, twitter, facebook, or instagram. You can either create your own content or simply share contents from the community. In addition, contacting mainstream media allows you to reach an even greater audience, for example, the New York Times has a survey on the March for Science. Social media also allows us to infiltrate into circles with different opinions, by tagging them or commenting on their posts. This can alleviate information bias for us as well as people with different opinions. Regardless of the method, get involved is the best we can do.

In addition to getting involved with the March for Science specifically, sharing the spirit of science should be a persistent goal. We are in an age when facts don’t speak for themselves a lot of times. It’s increasingly a scientist’s job to communicate his/her scientific findings, and to advocate for the actions supported by current evidence. Even though connecting and persuading people with different opinions is hard, we need to persevere with the stakes so high. Using simple language and having a clear message is essential to communicate science to non-experts. And be open to different opinions. However, being open to alternative interpretations doesn’t mean that we should keep quiet about blatantly unsupported claims. Everyone has the freedom to express his/her opinions, regardless of accuracy, but we also have the right to, and should stand up when facts and evidence are being ignored or denied.

 

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