March for Science

Fred Block|Research professor of sociology at U.C. Davis

CES Endorses the March for Science, April 22, 2017

The March for Science is an unprecedented and very welcome event.  On April 22nd, thousands of people will participate in Washington, D.C. and dozens of satellite marches to express their opposition to the anti-science orientation of this Administration.

The march expresses deep dissatisfaction with the Administration’s climate change denial, its proposed budget that makes drastic cuts to research and development outlays, and the repeated reliance on “alternative facts” by key government officials.  The march is nonpartisan and it represents an historic opportunity for the entire scholarly community to express support for science funding, scientific integrity, and a vision of science that is focused on the public good.

The organizers of the march include both natural scientists and social scientists, and the statement of principles they have drafted is sensitive to the potential problems that a mobilization by scientists could create.  After all, scientists as a group represent a relatively privileged sector of the population, and there is a troubled history of collusion between scientists and powerful interests to act against the public interest.   The organizers address these issues in a number of ways.  First, they emphasize the importance of diversity within the scientific community:

A lack of diversity and inclusion in STEM thwarts scientific advancements by influencing not only who performs research, but the questions we seek to answer, who participates in studies, and, critically, what communities benefit from the innovations and services that science provides.

The sentence implicitly endorses CES critique of the fantasy that social scientists can free themselves from their own conscious and unconscious biases by embracing the scientific method.  Second, the organizers reject scientific elitism and emphasize the importance of scientists partnering with citizens.

Science works best when scientists share our findings with and engage the communities we serve in shaping, sharing, and participating in the research process.

This is completely consistent with our vision of an engaged social science working to create a more egalitarian, more democratic, and more sustainable society.

With these important clarifications, we are able to endorse this march with enthusiasm.  To be sure, this is hardly the first time that groups of scientists have made important political interventions.  Climate scientists, in particular, have been heroic in their efforts to make politicians and the public aware of the threat of catastrophic climate change. But this is the first time that scientists and their allies have marched on Washington as scientists to push for changes in government policy.

Participating in the march is a great way then to convey three vitally important messages:

  • Oppose attacks on scientific integrity that includes the appointment of people who are hostile to the fundamental purposes of such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, and the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Rejection of the misguided budget priorities that eviscerate scientific spending and discretionary programs in order to finance a disastrous and unnecessary increase in military spending.  We also need to stop the draconian cuts in social spending and in programs such as NEH and NEA that are vital investments in a rich, diverse, and vibrant culture.
  • Participation in the march is a way to uphold a vision of the scientific community’s responsibility to advance the public good.  As social scientists, we do not live in an ivory tower; we must join with our fellow citizens to oppose policies that challenge our deepest values.

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