After a Tuesday filled with news of gag orders on government scientists at several federal agencies, others in the science community are rapidly coming up with ways of pushing back against the new administration’s attempts to keep tax-funded research from the public. One group is in the early stages of forming a second march on Washington, DC — this time with a focus on science. Meanwhile, other scientists are thinking of ways to change policy, by running for office themselves.
The idea to march was spawned on a Reddit forum, according to The Washington Post, and quickly the “Scientists’ March on Washington” was born. The effort is being spearheaded by science writer Caroline Weinberg, who has a master’s in public health and a decade’s worth of experience in scientific research. Now, there’s a website, two Facebook groups, a Twitter account, and a Reddit forum. The hashtag #ScienceMarch has been trending on Twitter.
Weinberg told The Verge the group has grown much faster than they expected. For now, they’re still in the very early stages of planning and coming up with a mission statement, as well as a date for the march. They also want to make sure that the movement is as diverse and as inclusive as possible. "Diversity in science — both in the researchers who participate and the topics we are focused on — is a critically neglected area,” Weinberg wrote in an email to The Verge. “We fully intend to emphasize diversity in both the planning of and mission statement for this march."
While the march is in response to recent actions taken by the administration, the organizers say the march is nonpartisan. “This is not a partisan issue — people from all parts of the political spectrum should be alarmed by these efforts to deny scientific progress,” says Weinberg. “Scientific research moves us forward and we should not allow asinine policies to thwart it.”
As Weinberg and her associates work to send a message to policy makers, other scientists are considering ways of becoming policy makers themselves. A recently formed political action committee called 314 Action is helping those with backgrounds in science to run for office. Named after the first three digits of Pi, the organization was founded by Shaughnessy Naughton, a chemist who ran, unsuccessfully, for Congress twice. Naughton tells The Atlantic that her inexperience with campaigning and politics was to blame.
Now with 314 Action, Naughton is trying to help scientists succeed where she didn’t. The group will help with monetary backing for candidates who sign up with the organization, as well as give guidance on how to run a campaign. The committee is also hosting an online information session on Pi Day, March 14th, for people in the STEM community who are interested in going into politics.
“Partly, we’re making the case for why they should run — and Donald Trump is really helping us with that,” Naughton tells The Atlantic. “Then, we’re showing them how to run, and introducing them to our donor network.”
The main concern for Naughton is that there are not enough people with science backgrounds running the country. “We see the effects of that in the attempted politicization of science, mocking of basic research and denial of climate change,” Naughton writes on the 314 Action website. “This is not just bad for science, it is bad for our country.”
Update January 25th 5:55PM ET: This story was updated to include more information about the Scientists’ March social media accounts.