By Simone Campbell
On Earth Day 2017, thousands of scientists left their laboratories and took to the streets in hundreds of cities across the nation. This movement advocating for science materialized in response to recently proposed federal policies bent on cutting funding to government research agencies, as well as the augmented politicization of scientific issues like climate change. The March for Science set out to defend scientific research in a nonpartisan manner.
There was a buzz surrounding the March for Science among the scientific community at Emory. This was bolstered by a poster-making session hosted by the Emory Science Advocacy Network (EScAN) in the days leading up to the event. Rachel Pearcy, a PhD student in the Neuroscience program and EScAN Vice President of Current Affairs, said “the engagement of the Emory community is essential for science advocacy because it could have major repercussions for Emory research. The current political climate threatens to hurt the ability of researchers to do their science, both by affecting funding and by impacting the ability of scientists to communicate about their work.” EScAN hopes that by mobilizing the Emory community they can communicate the necessity of scientific inquiry to lawmakers.
On that Saturday afternoon, the speakers focused on why science is important, and the indelible impact it has on humanity. At the start of the Atlanta satellite event, MaKara Rumley, a senior advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency spoke, proclaiming, “We are here to let the policy makers in DC, and the policy makers right here in Georgia know that we believe laws should be based on peer-reviewed, scientific evidence and not feelings.” Her words underscore the prevailing sentiment in support of science’s impartiality, and the disservice to society which comes when political agendas are prioritized over scientific realities.
After the initial speakers kicked off the event, participants marched along a route circling through the Candler Park and Little Five Points neighborhoods. People of all ages rallied in defense and in praise of science, with colorful, witty, and pun-filled signs with decrees like “Make earth cool again,” and “Join me for a moment of science.” Some marchers even dressed up as scientists, donning white lab coats and other lab gear. Live music gave rise to a vibrant atmosphere that was indicative of a celebration. After several hours of marching, the event ended with a set of concluding remarks from a second set of speakers, capping off the peaceful demonstration.
What follows the March for Science? “Scientists need to make ourselves more visible,” urged Crystal Grant, a PhD student in the Genetics and Molecular Biology program who helped plan the poster making event. “Overall, scientists need to start talking to the public about our work. We mustn't forget their tax dollars make it possible for us to do what we love; it's our responsibility to make sure they understand what we do.”
Society’s understanding and appreciation of the importance of scientific research is vital for the thriving research programs at Emory. If you would like additional information on future efforts to keep the momentum from March for Science moving forward, visit the March for Science website for additional ideas on how to engage in science outreach and advocacy.