by Ed Grumbine, Director, North Rim Ranches Program
On April 22, scientists and their supporters are taking to the streets at over 500 locations in 35 countries to participate in a global March for Science. I will be joining the march in Flagstaff, Arizona and speaking at the rally that follows. As a group, we researchers are not known for political activism of any kind. So why are tens of thousands of professional scientists poised to publicly support non-partisan, evidence-based inquiry?
In the United States, where the March for Science originated, scientists are feeling unprecedented concern over support for their work — in general, and in recent policy pronouncements of the Trump administration. Scientists outside America are concerned too; many believe that politics are undermining the critical role research serves of providing a base of empirical data that aids any country in the quest to expand the frontiers of knowledge. Evidence-based understanding is required for innovation in biology, medicine, and solutions to social problems.
For people who support evidence-based decision-making, what is triggering these concerns?
If you are like me, you support a non-partisan role for science in our culture, in our country, and in our daily lives.
If you are like me, you want data and research results, not politics, to drive a better understanding of how to keep America’s ecosystems functioning, for us and for the species of our shared home. You may not like government regulation, but you believe that equitable rules and their enforcement keep air,water, and food clean for everyone.
You want research in the medical sciences to continue to be funded at present levels so that, in the future, our kids can live better lives and aging Americans may benefit from cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s.
And, if you are like me, you want important decisions to be made using evidence not emotions, facts not feelings. You don’t want partisan politics to trump reason.
Past administrations have attempted to restrict the free flow of ideas for political ends. But, along with tens of thousands of others, I am marching on April 22 because I have never seen this level of unprecedented disregard for science, the fundamental process of inquiring about our world. I have been active in science for 35 years, and I never imagined that the political atmosphere would be so challenging that I would be called upon to march and speak at an event like this.
Science is by no means perfect. But it creates an evidence-based playing field and common ground for mutual understanding. After the data is in and results shared and analyzed, and not before, we can argue among competing alternatives about the best way to proceed. Facts and values should be in constant conversation with each other. But let’s not re-order this fundamental relationship in pursuit of short-sighted political gains.
Please consider joining me and hundreds of local concerned citizens in Flagstaff (and thousands of others worldwide) to March for Science on April 22.