Scientists take to streets to defend research

2017-04-22 19:50
Scientists protest in Parliament Square in central London during the March for Science. (Jack Hardy, PA via AP)

Scientists protest in Parliament Square in central London during the March for Science. (Jack Hardy, PA via AP)

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Washington - Thousands of scientists worldwide left their labs to take to the streets on Saturday along with students and research advocates in pushing back against what they say are mounting attacks on science.

The March for Science, coinciding with Earth Day, was set for more than 500 cities, anchored in Washington and to be joined by dozens of nonpartisan scientific professional societies in a turnout intended to combine political and how-to science demonstrations.

Research institutions

Marchers in Geneva carried signs that said, "Science - A Candle in the Dark" and "Science is the Answer."

In Berlin, several thousand people participated in a march from the one of the city's universities to the Brandenburg Gate landmark. "We need to make more of our decision based on facts again and less on emotions," said Meike Weltin, a doctorate student at an environmental institute near the capital.

In London, physicists, astronomers, biologists and celebrities gathered for a march past the city's most celebrated research institutions. Supporters carried signs showing images of a double helix and chemical symbols.

The protest was putting scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, into a more public position.

Organisers portrayed the march as political but not partisan, promoting the understanding of science as well as defending it from various attacks, including proposed US government budget cuts under President Donald Trump, such as a 20% slice of the National Institute of Health.

Signs and banners readied for the Washington rally reflected anger, humour and obscure scientific references, such as a 7-year-old's "No Taxation Without Taxonomy." Taxonomy is the science of classifying animals, plants and other organisms.

Established science

The sign that 9-year-old Sam Klimas held was red, handmade and personal: "Science saved my life." He had a form of brain cancer and has been healthy for eight years. His mother, grandmother and brother travelled with him from Parkersburg, West Virginia. "I have to do everything I can to oppose the policies of this administration," said his grandmother, Susan Sharp."

Scientists involved in the march said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunisations.

"Scientists find it appalling that evidence has been crowded out by ideological assertions," said Rush Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "It is not just about Donald Trump, but there is also no question that marchers are saying 'when the shoe fits".


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