Ten Alaskan communities will join hundreds of others worldwide Saturday to show support for science and the role it plays in improving the lives of people. Two Alaskans who’ll be participating in their communities’ March for Science observances say they’ll also be protesting steep budget cuts proposed for federal agencies and programs and politically-motivated attacks on science and scientists.
Christa Mulder is a professor of ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and she says she’ll be marching here mainly to express her alarm with a political environment that’s grown increasingly hostile to science.
“We’re marching to celebrate science, but we’re also marching to demonstrate to people that we’re concerned about the threats that face science and scientists,” she said.
Mulder worries that political leaders and others have grown skeptical about science – as shown in resistance to such programs for vaccinating children and, of course, monitoring climate change.
She says her concerns are intensified by the near-daily barrage of criticism of science by President Trump and other conservative leaders and their proposals to slash funding and eliminate programs. And their growing tendency to censor and intimidate researchers and suppress their data.
“So it’s those kinds of things,” she said. “When you undermine any credibility in what science tells you, you’re really causing, I think, enormous damage to society.”
Bryan Box says he’ll be marching for science in Anchorage because the hostile political environment that followed the Nov. 8 election of President Trump cost him his job – and a shot at a research position with a federal agency in Alaska.
“So, (on) Nov. 10,” he said, “my bosses tell me ‘Hey look, because of the election, we’re not going to give you that job. And so we’re also going to have to let you go from the job that you already have, on Jan. 20.’ ”
Box is an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and went on to earn an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the University of Alaska Anchorage. He asked that the agency that he’d hoped to work for not be mentioned in this report, because he’d still like to work for it. But for now he and his fellow researchers are just trying to cope with such problems as the loss of scientific data that’s been “scrubbed” from federal websites.
“More and more of these researchers were freaking out because huge sections of the (federal) government (online content) were starting to go black, as far as like parts of the EPA website, that sort of thing.”
Box says he’s also discouraged by censorship imposed on federal employees by an administration gag order requiring them to gain high-level clearance for release of many kinds of science-related information to the public.
“So, somebody who has absolutely no idea about our field whatsoever is going to be reading our peer-reviewed journal articles for political correctness, or whatever you want to call it.”
Box and Mulder both say they’re not particularly politically-minded people, and that people of any political affiliation are welcome to participate in the marches – as long as they support science and research free from political influence.
“Science is not by itself political,” Mulder said. “It is not a partisan march. We really don’t care who you voted for. Anybody who’s willing to come out and stand up for science … is very, very welcome.”
Box says reiterated that emphasis on inclusion. He says he’s invited many scientists and science-minded people to show up and share their work.
“If you use peer review, if you use empirical evidence, you use the scientific method to do something, I want you to show up with your data ready to talk to people.”
Online information about the marches is available on Facebook and marchforscience.com.