U.S. Scientists Ready to Mobilize Against Trump in 'March for Science' on Saturday

To protest Trump administration's policies, researchers to take to the streets in 'March for Science' in D.C. and 500 other locations across the country

Neuroscientist Shruti Muralidhar and microbiologist Abhishek Chari hold placards and chant during a demonstration by members of the scientific community, environmental advocates, and supporters, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, in Boston.
Steven Senne/AP

For months now, many American scientists have been preparing for an important event which will take place this Saturday. It isn't a conference or an experiment this time, rather it is what is shaping up to be an unprecedented protest of scientists of all disciplines against the U.S. administration.

The downplaying of the threat of global warming, the attack on the Environmental Protection Agency, and the plans to substantially cut research funding have U.S. researchers worried, and on April 22, Earth Day, they are planning to hold over 500 protests against the Trump administration across the country. The event called "March for Science" will call for the adoption of fact-based policy and for the funding of research.

U.S. President Trump's plans to cancel environmental restrictions on industry and cut federal funding for research have been troubling scientists. During the election campaign, Trump repeatedly mocked the dangers of global warming, calling it a Chinese conspiracy. While these statements caused many to laugh at the time, now that they seem to be transforming into actual policy decisions, scientists aren't laughing any more.

Trump's proposed budget, for example, would cut a third of the EPA's funding. In addition, the Washington Post revealed last month, that the administration is planning to cut the National Institutes of Health's budget by 20 percent, a move that would deal a serious blow to American bio-medical research.

The events main march is expected to take place in Washington D.C., with other proxy marches taking place in other U.S. cities, similar to the Women's March that took place the day after Trump's inauguration. The researchers will be accompanied by their families, students, environmental activists, and concerned citizens. Over the past few weeks students have been holding preparatory meetings  in which posters and slogans for the march were prepared.  

Politicizing science

"I'm very concerned about the disregard for evidence when it comes to short term profits - to the point there is even muzzling of inconvenient science for EPA etc. I'm very concerned about the disregard for evidence when it comes to short term profits - to the point there is even muzzling of inconvenient science for EPA etc.," Ulrike Jung, a gene therapy specialist at Stanford University, told Haaretz.

"I march as a wakeup call for my colleagues too that being "apolitical" simply means "silently taking it" and if we have the evidence, I believe we have the responsibility to stand up and be heard. Right now we have others, laymen even, tell everyone what science says and distort it and diminish our role."

Lennie LaBerta, an engineer at Boeing, said "I'm marching to protest the choices Trump has made for his cabinet, the EPA and Department of Education in particular."

Despite the calls of opposition that the march was politicizing science, dozens of scientific organizations have expressed support for the march, including the Society for Neuroscience, the American Sociology Association, the American Chemical Society, and many others with tens of thousands of members. One of the organizations to express support for the march is the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the biggest scientific organizations in the world and the publisher of Science.

The science magazine Nature called on its readers in last week's issue to support the protest. "Nature is delighted to offer its own endorsement of the march and, more importantly, of the movement that the marchers will represent. We encourage readers to get involved, to show solidarity and to speak out about the importance of research and evidence — not just next weekend, but more often and more forcefully," Nature's editorial read.

"It is true that the march blurs the lines between science and politics. But that line is already much fuzzier than some try to argue. It is possible to care about science and scientific thinking while ignoring the political context in which it operates. But it is difficult to do that and demand change at the same time."