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Science not Silence: Point Blue and the March for Science

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March 10, 2017  by Ellie Cohen

Recent efforts to silence government scientists and decimate research budgets, particularly around climate change, are deeply disturbing. These attacks raise serious questions about the role of scientists in a democracy. Should scientists advocate for science? Or by doing so, do they add to fuel to the fire of partisan politics and weaken public support for science?

There is a growing movement to speak out within the science community. A recent march in Boston drew thousands with placards including Science not Silence, Science Does Not Discriminate, and Facts Matter. The next focal point is the “March for Science” in Washington, DC and across the country, on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22.  It is endorsed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Ecological Society of America, among others.

Science is inherently non-partisan, built on systematic, transparent and peer-reviewed inquiry, observation and evidence.  In that light, I believe scientists should advocate for science and scientific findings. However, there is an enormous divide between how most scientists view the world versus the general public.  Scientists need to significantly improve how we communicate what we do and the value of our work to society.

The March is an opportunity to instruct and catalyze scientists to reach out across the political and social spectrum. Just as science builds bridges across cultural divides in ways that few other disciplines can, the March for Science offers an opportunity for cross-boundary community-building. It is a chance to tell our stories about how science drives human understanding, economic innovation and our collective well-being.

The March also provides a platform to communicate the foundational nature of science to a healthy, vibrant democracy. We need to share how science helps humanity discover and illuminate truths upon which policy makers can act to better the lives of the people they serve.

It seems to me that advocating for science is especially urgent today in the face of accelerating climate change and the loss of ecosystem services which threaten life as we know it.

Along the lines of Rabbi Hillel’s sage words from 2,000 years ago, if scientists don’t stand up for science, who will? And what better time than now?

Note: Point Blue Conservation Science supports its science staff in attending the March for Science and advocating for science.

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