02/03/2017

For Science Supporters, an Earth Day March on Washington

8:16 minutes

Credit: March For Science
Credit: March For Science

For scientists who see certain actions by the new Republican administration as attacks on their work, a March for Science, modeled after the January 21 Women’s March, has been gaining rapid interest. A Twitter account for the event—created on January 23—now has more than 300,000 followers.

And now, the March for Science has a date: April 22, Earth Day. The main march will be held in Washington D.C., but organizers say they are expecting dozens of satellite marches in other cities on the same day.

Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher, science writer, and co-organizer of the march, explains why so many people think it’s a necessary action.

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Segment Guests

Caroline Weinberg

Caroline Weinberg is a science writer and co-founder of the March for Science. She’s based in New York, New York.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow. This is “Science Friday,” from PRI, Public Radio International. We’re now going to move from a frock–

[LAUGHS]

–from [INAUDIBLE], which I’m trying to get over– to something very serious. And that is sensing that science and evidence-based research is under attack. The science community and people who care about science in society are organizing.

Inspired by the Women’s March in January, plans are underway to take to the streets of Washington, by the thousands. It’s called the March for Science. And it already has over 300,000 Twitter followers.

The march will be in Washington DC. If you have a calendar, it’s going to be on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22nd, to advocate for a, quote, “Open, inclusive, and accessible science.” Dr. Caroline Weinberg is a science writer whose previous work was in public health and medical research. She is one of the organizers. And she’s here, in our New York studios.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Hi.

IRA FLATOW: Welcome to “Science Friday.” How did this get– it seemed to come out of nowhere, almost.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: It did kind of come out of nowhere. What actually happened was one of the co-organizers with me, a guy named Jonathan Berman, was talking about it on Reddit, about a march. And he bought a URL, thescientistsmarchonWashington, which was the original name, and got a Twitter handle and got a Facebook.

And it was just kind of sitting. He had like, 10 Twitter followers. And I had a similar idea for a march, and figured I couldn’t be the only one. So I went on Twitter.

And then I eventually got connected to him. And our thread got retweeted a bunch of times. And in like, 10 hours, there were 30,000 Twitter followers. And it just kind of exploded from there.

IRA FLATOW: Mhm. And how many people here you expecting to show up?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: It’s hard to say. I mean, you know, there’s a million followers on Facebook. We don’t really expect that many people to show up. But who knows? But what’s really encouraging is that DC is now a small part of a global movement.

There are people who are going to be joining us from literally all over the world. I just got an email from someone who wants to have a march in Panama. And they’re happening in Norway, and Australia, and obviously throughout the US.

So it’s really encouraging. I don’t know how big it’s going to be on a global scale. But it’s expanded far past DC.

IRA FLATOW: Mhm. And this, people have been mistakenly calling it a Scientist’s march. It’s not just for scientists.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: No. It was originally called the Scientists’ March.

IRA FLATOW: Yes.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: But maybe like, 10 hours after it kind of came out as that, it was changed to the March for Science. Just because it isn’t just about scientists. It’s about science enthusiasts, and anyone who believes that science needs to be celebrated and championed.

IRA FLATOW: All right, so what do you hope that comes out of this march? Is there a point to it?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: I mean, yes. We hope there’s a point to it. I mean, I think our ultimate goal– well, so the march itself, we hope, is just going to encourage politicians and people watching to understand that people really do care about science, and think that evidence-based policy should exist in the government.

They should pay attention to science. And so that’s really important to us. And then what our ultimate goal with it is, is to advocate for policy change.

We think that science needs to be part of government platforms. But what we really want to focus on is education, and getting researchers out of the lab and into a public sphere, and trying to help people to understand what’s so important about their research, and how it affects their daily lives. Because we think that that doing that, and helping people get invested in the research that’s happening will help them to care about the government funding science and listening to scientific research, and we think it all ties back to education.

IRA FLATOW: Now, people saw the Women’s March and said, that’s a great idea for science, to be involved in that kind of march. Is that one of the catalysts for this?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: I definitely can’t speak for Jon or for Valerie, who is the other co-organizer, or for really the other probably thousands of people who had the idea for a march and just were waiting for someone to start it.

IRA FLATOW: I mean, you saw the great success of the Women’s March.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Oh, the Women’s March. Sorry. Sorry, the Women’s March.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, it was a great success.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: But I don’t think that any of us really would have had the same idea to do something like a march like this, if that hadn’t happened. And I certainly don’t think– when we initially planned the march in DC, we weren’t thinking about how it would expand.

IRA FLATOW: Right.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: And the idea had probably been out there for like, two hours before we started getting emails of people being like, oh, I’m going to start a satellite in California. I’m going to get one going in Maine. People just immediately–

IRA FLATOW: Right.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: And that’s totally because of the Women’s March.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah. And so do you expect other marches around the country, just like in the Women’s March, to spontaneously show up in other cities?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Definitely. I mean, it’s spontaneously happened. But we have a man named [? Kishor, ?] who’s helping us coordinate all of the satellite marches. And so we’re calling them satellite marches because we’re science nerds.

IRA FLATOW: It’s scientific.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Yeah. And he’s helping us coordinate them. And they’re really just happening everywhere. And people are so unbelievably enthusiastic. It’s been really amazing.

IRA FLATOW: Mhm. Now, you’re careful to call this a nonpartisan event.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Mhm.

IRA FLATOW: What do you mean by that?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Because science is nonpartisan. I mean, science is about getting to the truth. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle someone is on, or what they’re focused on. All that matters is whether or not they appreciate evidence-based research.

And a lot of people like to say that it is kind of– there’s a lot of blame placed on Republicans for being anti-science. But the truth is, is that there are a lot of Democrats who are anti-science too. And by focusing on one party, you’re letting the other one off the hook. And all that matters is that the person believes in science. It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle they come from.

IRA FLATOW: So if people want to get involved, the best way to do that is what?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Get involved in the March?

IRA FLATOW: Yes.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Is to follow on Facebook or Twitter. Because those are the best way that we push out information. We have a website, which is Marchforscience.com.

And there’s a lot of information on the march. And we’re going to shortly be putting up the details on all the sister marches. And then people are just volunteering to support advocacy, and to get out into the communities and talk about science. And that’s really what we’re all about.

IRA FLATOW: And will it focus on the Mall, again, like other marches?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: So there’s going to be a march to the Mall. But the main focus in DC is actually going to be a rally on the Mall, which we’re doing in partnership with the Earth Day Network. And they had this really cool idea, to have it basically be a teach-in.

So there are going to be tents set up all along the Mall. And there will be a main stage, where people talk, the main-stage speakers. But then in the tents there are going to be scientists who talk about their work and their research, and help people become invested in what they’re doing, and understand how their research affects their everyday life.

IRA FLATOW: Is there going to be a single famous spokesperson who’s going to be the key person in this? Or is it just like in the Women’s March, there were just a lot of people.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: I mean, there will definitely be people involved who are names that people will recognize. But it’s important that there are so many branches of science. And all of them deserve attention.

You know, there are a lot of famous medical researchers. But there probably aren’t many familiar names of botanists and geologists. But that’s also a really important part of science.

So we want to go across the spectrum. So we’re focused more on that, than having one big.

IRA FLATOW: OK, so the data again is?

CAROLINE WEINBERG: It’s April 22nd, it’s Earth Day.

IRA FLATOW: It’s a Saturday, Earth Day.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Yes, Saturday.

IRA FLATOW: Obviously, there will be buses and things, and people will be–

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Yeah, everything’s going to be organized. And we’re going to put all the information out there to help.

IRA FLATOW: Start booking your hotel room now.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Yeah, seriously. We’ve got to get on that for ourselves too.

IRA FLATOW: Got to get on that. Carol Weinberg, science writer and co-organizer of the March on Science, which is scheduled to take place Saturday, April 22nd, Earth Day, in Washington, and various satellite cities around the country.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Around the world. Yeah.

IRA FLATOW: Thank you for taking time to be with us today.

CAROLINE WEINBERG: Thanks for having me.

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