By Rush D. Holt
The March for Science in April 2017 was a unique demonstration of concern about the role of science and engineering in society and government. More than a million people in cities and towns around the world gathered in streets, made placards and banners, and heard speakers extoling the relevance and beauty of science—and also warning of diminished influence of science in policymaking. Some have dismissed the marchers as just another interest group advocating for more government funding for their work.
But the March, as I saw it and took part in it, represented something more: a significant change in how scientists see themselves and their work. This change had been slowly developing over recent decades and is now reaching a crescendo. Plans for another March for Science tomorrow indicate that the change among scientists is real, and that last year’s march was not simply a flash in the pan.
Scientists and friends of science are excited about recent progress in almost every scientific discipline. Whether it be observations of neutron star collisions, new findings on intergenerational epigenetic changes, macroscopic quantum entanglements, or human behavior, unprecedented scientific advances abound that will improve our future. Science marchers point to science as central to improving the human condition. At the same time, they are concerned about weakening public understanding and support of scientific research and the widespread neglect of scientific evidence. These concerns brought marchers to the streets in 2017 as much as pride in scientific accomplishments.
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