The March for Science began unceremoniously on January 25, with vague ambitions, a hastily designed logo, and a Facebook page inspired by a throwaway Reddit comment. Six weeks later, and it has blossomed into a huge movement. It has attracted both support and controversy, and a deluge of opinion pieces about whether it should take place at all. At least one thing is clear: It is definitely happening. On April 22, coinciding with Earth Day, large crowds will take to the streets of Washington, D.C. and over 360 other cities. Across six continents, they will, as stated, march for science.
Which means what, exactly?
“Science” isn’t a monolithic entity. The term contains multitudes. There’s empiricism itself, and the primacy of evidence in making sense of the world. There’s the scientific method—a system for gathering evidence. There are the various fields and sub-fields in which that method is used. There are the people who deploy it—scientists obviously, but also teachers, journalists, doctors, and more. Given that plurality, I wondered, what exactly are people marching for when they’re marching for science?
I first tried to answer that question by looking at two sources—the March for Science’s website and its Facebook group—and collating every statement that could be reasonably interpreted as a goal. I found 21.
- Celebrate “passion for science.”
- Celebrate what science does for people and “the many ways that science serves our communities and our world.”
- Encourage the public “to value and invest in science” and “appreciate and engage with science.”
- Encourage scientists to “reach out to their communities” and share their research and its impact.
- Encourage scientists to “listen to communities” and consider their research from the perspective of the people they serve.
- Affirm science as a “vital feature of a working democracy.”
- Show science to be “first and foremost a human process” that is “conducted, applied, and supported by a diverse body of people.”
- Support research “that gives us insight into the world” and “upholds the common good.”
- Encourage people to “support and safeguard the scientific community.”
- Call for robust federal funding “in support of research, scientific hiring, and agency application of science to management.”
- Advocate for “open, inclusive, and accessible science” that is “freely available.”
- Support science education that teaches people “to think critically, ask questions, and evaluate truth based on the weight of evidence.”
- Encourage political leaders and policy-makers to enact evidence-based policies, and “make use of peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus, not personal whims and decrees.”
- Oppose “policies that ignore scientific evidence” or “seek to eliminate it entirely.”
- Oppose policies that “threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings.”
- Oppose an “alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus.”
- Oppose the “mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue.”
- Protect science from “manipulation by special interests.”
- Hold leaders in science and in politics “accountable to the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity.”
- Stand up for scientists: “Speak up for them when they are silenced” and “protect them when they are threatened”.
- Encourage and support a new generation of scientists “that increasingly includes historically underrepresented groups.”