Tens of thousands of scientists, researchers, and concerned citizens participated in marches all around the country and on all seven continents last Saturday. The march sought to advocate for greater public and government awareness of science and its importance in the public sphere. Titled the March for Science, the event took place on Earth Day, and comes three months into President Trump’s administration, which has supported slashing government- funded research in its most recent budget proposal.
Among the marchers in D.C. was a group called Hoyas March for Science, a group of over 100 students, professors, and alums. This editorial board commends the work of these members of the Georgetown community. We have said that, in the current political moment, it is more important than ever for students to become more actively engaged in politics, especially when the issues they engage with overlap with their studies. The students and faculty mobilized, made their voices heard, and set a strong example of campus organizing for the rest of the Georgetown community.
However, like any political action of its size, the march was not without its flaws, one of which was a lack of a cohesive message. In many ways, it was unclear for what exactly the marchers were marching. The event took place on Earth Day, and the relations between climate change and science are clear, and yet it comes a week before the People’s Climate March, a different event with seemingly similar goals.
Perhaps more substantial were the attempts to characterize the march as an apolitical event. On its website, the event describes itself as “nonpartisan,” and many of its participants discussed the importance of keeping science outside of the realm of politics.
There is no denying that the March for Science is a direct reaction to the current administration’s policies. It is not an annual event and was planned following Trump’s election. Lab research all across the country may have nothing to do with partisan allegiance, but how the findings are viewed and used in policy is undeniably political.
Science, the method of forming a hypothesis, running an experiment, and coming to a conclusion, can and should be done in a non-political space. Yet forming and advocating for that space is a political act, as is using the conclusions to create policies.
Climate change, public health, and the countless other areas which depend on science are political problems as well as scientific ones. To think that those lawmakers who oppose legislation against climate change do so simply because they don’t have all the facts on the issue is naive and dangerous. The fights against these problems will certainly require research, but science alone will not spur progress.
Since his presidency began, Trump has proposed cuts of over $1 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). His proposed budget also calls for slashing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget by almost one third. These actions go beyond just budget cuts. Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, is consistently on the record as having denied human responsibility for climate change.
These examples are just some of the many decisions made by the new administration that will have disastrous effects on the lives of American citizens. The work done by the NIH is essential to modern medicine and the EPA is responsible for preventing the environmental degradation of American communities, especially those of color that are too often disproportionately harmed. We firmly believe that the federal government can and must promote scientific research. We stand against actions by the President to limit research and regulation that can only benefit the American people.
Science and research on behalf of the common good is one of the tenets of modern human life and civilization. Without it, there can be little hope of fixing any of the problems our world faces today. Still, facts and research alone are not enough, and everyone, including those who marched on Saturday, should remember this.