At last year’s March for Science, many wondered what would come next. Would the march be a blip, or did it represent a new era in science activism? We find that the enthusiasm for defending the role of science in public life has only deepened. Scientists and their allies went right from the streets into their communities and legislators’ offices, planning for the long haul.
At the same time, many scientists and scientific groups want to build on the successes and learn from the mistakes of others. That’s why today, UCS is partnering with a variety of science organizations to launch Science Rising, an initiative to help others make connections and put science to work for justice and the public interest.
Scientists are self-organizing, and are doing so around science issues in areas where they have not been as vocal in the past.
Over the last year, some efforts were directly supported by UCS. The Penn State Science Policy Society convened a listening session to build relationships between scientists and community leaders. In Iowa, scientists organized a major advocacy day to urge the state legislature to restore funding for a sustainable agricultural research center. At the University of Washington, graduate students developed a workshop to better understand how climate policy works in Washington state.
Many efforts were not. The Data Refuge Project, made famous for safeguarding government data, is building a storybank to document how data connects people, places, and non-human species. The city of Chicago, which hosted climate change information on its website that the EPA took down, held an event in February to discuss how the city can support expanded access to climate and environmental data on its website and support research related to environmental policy decisions.
Scientific societies and universities have jumped into the fray. From Cambridge, Ohio to Corinth, Texas, the Thriving Earth Exchange of the American Geophysical Union is helping scientists and community leaders tackle climate change and natural resource challenges. Then there’s the Concerned Scientists at Indiana, a recently-convened group independent from UCS that has held multiple events and trainings for scientists in Bloomington. 500 Women Scientists, which formed after the 2016 election, held science salons—public talks—around the world during Women’s History Month to raise funds for CienciaPR, which promotes science education and research in Puerto Rico.
Make no mistake: this is just the beginning. There’s a thirst among scientists to create the infrastructure that is necessary to share ideas, amplify efforts, and keep the momentum going. And it’s clear that scientists are ready to stimulate conversation around science policy and take actions that restore it to its rightful place in policy decisions. As we head into the midterm elections, scientists and their institutions will be increasingly active in getting congressional candidates to articulate where they stand on science issues and whether and how they plan to hold the Trump administration accountable.
But to really catalyze the energy that is out there, we have to pool resources. On the Science Rising website you can explore how to organize events in your community that help you stand up for science. How to connect with legislators and inform media coverage. How to organize events, get active on social media, connect with local community organizations. And ultimately, how to inspire others to follow your lead.
Zachary Knecht, who leads the Brandeis Science Policy Initiative, is excited about making connections through this project. “Even in our interconnected world, academic life can be very isolating,” he said. “It’s absolutely critical for those of us engaged in the science policy sphere to be able to coordinate our efforts, and Science Rising provides a centralized platform to do that.”
Find out what’s happening in your area. Check out what other scientists and groups of scientists are doing that you can emulate. Figure out how to take your own interest in activism to the next level. Other groups and individuals will share what they are doing and learning. Make your contribution at sciencerising.org.
Support from UCS members make work like this possible. Will you join us? Help UCS advance independent science for a healthy environment and a safer world.