It would be too easy to say "for my kids" and leave it at that. When thousands gather to March for Science in Chicago on Saturday, we're marching for progress for humanity that only science can bring. It seems fairly obvious that nearly every aspect of modern life is deeply influenced by our past investment in evidence-based policy, education, and research. From the cell phone in your pocket to the moon landing, America does science better than anyone. And many (most?) of our best accomplishments in science came via government support. If we expand our vision slightly, science has also given us our national parks, preserves our history, and keeps our economy thriving.
But there are cracks in America's science program.
There are those willing to sacrifice our clean water and air. They deny climate change. They deny that vaccines are one of our best medical techniques for saving lives. They wish to lower the amount of research dollars given to important studies. They attack STEAM education in the schools--either directly or indirectly via spending cuts. They limit the affordability of college to the next generation of scientists and teachers.
March for Science is not just about scientists demanding from politicians a greater role for evidence-based decision making...though that itself would be enough. We're marching under the larger umbrella of better science communication, rallying around the role science plays in our lives, and encouraging more participation in science. Science is a tool for EVERYONE. It belongs to no one.
Science is currently threatened not just by an administration who fails to place proper value on it as a tool for the public interest, but society as a whole is beginning to devalue the role of critical thinking and innovation in a healthy democracy.
Almost from the moment March for Science was announced, debates began about the nature of the march itself. Is it political? Is it partisan? Is it diverse? Is it needed? For me, these debates show the very reason the march itself exists...
Science itself may not be political. Science isn't partisan. Science itself may be open to all. But the proper application of science certainly belongs to one side of the current culture divide. And we certainly could do more to increase diversity within science. This is an ongoing conversation that needs participation more than agreement or unity.
It doesn't matter why you're marching. It only matters that you're marching. We're all there for our students, our coworkers, our hope for a better planet. We can agree to disagree about the specifics. But the general premise is absolutely true:
Science is really, really, really important. It's possibly the only chance we've got.
I'd like to thank each and every one of you I see out there in the streets rallying for the advancement of science. I'm not actually out there for my kids. I'm out there for complete strangers I've never met who have lives that will be impacted, saved, and inspired. My kids benefit from the past generation of (often) unseen, unsung heroes of quiet progress who have given us all a life so spectacular that we forget about how important those small advancements have been. Since you woke up this morning, your life has been made better at least 100 times by a scientist you never met.
It's now time for the payment forward to come due. Protecting science is no different to our future than protecting other freedoms and institutions we hold dear. Science is what makes America possible.
See you in the streets!