The shadows on a street created by marchers in a demonstration.

Valentina Petrova/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Will they or won’t they? What science groups are saying about joining the March for Science

The upcoming March for Science, set for 22 April, is creating a buzz in the scientific community. The march arose as a grassroots reaction to concerns about the conduct of science under President Donald Trump. And it has spurred debate over whether it will help boost public support for research, or make scientists look like another special-interest group, adding to political polarization.

Now, the leaders of many scientific societies are mulling whether to formally endorse or take a role in the event. ScienceInsider is calling around to see where they are coming down on the issue, and will be updating this list periodically.

Here’s a rundown of what we know (newest entries at the top of each section):

Say they are supporting the march

  • The Association for Psychological Science in Washington D.C. “We stand with all of the other disciplines in the scientific community in support of the march and are helping to get the word out via social media. And we are brainstorming about other ways to help,” the organization’s executive director, Sarah Brookhart wrote in an email. (The group has about 33,000 members.) 
  • The American Sociological Association in Washington, D.C., has endorsed the march in a statement on its website (more than 13,000 members).
  • Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, supports a “march for science, not necessarily against anything,” says Jamie Vernon, communications director for the organization, which is based in Durham, North Carolina. Sigma Xi has been helping connect grassroots march organizers with science leaders. They have also been helping Sigma Xi members across the country learn about sister marches in their area (more than 110,000 members).

Say they are thinking about it, but no decision yet

  • The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in Washington D.C. "SfN is committed to communicating the crucial role of science and the importance of open global scientific exchange,” said Kara Flynn, senior director of communications and marketing, in an email to ScienceInsider. “Working with AAAS, we look forward to learning more about the event's goals.” (about 38,000 members).

  • The American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Washington D.C. “We're still working to figure out what, if any, role is appropriate for a group like AGU since it’s a march organized by ‘the people.’ We support scientists exercising their rights as citizens to speak out,” reads a statement by Christine McEntee, the executive director and chief executive officer of AGU (about 60,000 members). 

  • AAAS (publisher of ScienceInsider) in Washington, D.C. “It is exciting to see people so enthusiastic about science and the use of evidence in policymaking, and we are inspired by the grassroots nature of this movement,” Andrew Black, AAAS’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to organization staffers. AAAS executives are in touch with march organizers, he added, but are still thinking about any role. “In the current political climate, we must calculate very carefully the possible ramifications of AAAS’ official endorsement or participation in an effort like the one being discussed.” (about 100,000 members).

  • The Optical Society (OSA) in Washington, D.C. “We are still considering at this time if or how we will get involved. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the news for planning updates,” Rebecca Andersen, OSA’s public relations director, wrote in an email (more than 20,000 members).

  • The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in Rockville, Maryland. “Although we have a date and a compelling mission statement, there’s a lot that has yet to be worked out,” noted ASPB Chief Executive Officer Crispin Taylor in an email. “That said, to the extent that the march organizers maintain their emphasis on a positive and apolitical message regarding empirical science and its role in decision making, I expect that, at a minimum, ASPB will support the participation of its members in the march.” (about 4000 members).

  • The American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland. “We simply do not know much about this march yet,” wrote AIP Chief Executive Officer Robert Brown in an email. But he noted that AIP staff is “free to exercise their free speech by participating in this demonstration as individuals.” (a federation of 10 societies that, combined, have more than 120,000 members).

  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington, D.C. “The American Chemical Society is impressed with [the] number of individuals who have already voiced their support for science and the march—it is a testament to the grassroots organizing power of social media. ACS is currently seeking to gain greater insight into the goals and messaging of the march to determine if there is an appropriate role for the Society,” reads a statement from ACS (more than 157,000 members).

Other

  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, D.C. “This isn’t something we’re currently planning on getting involved in, as an association,” wrote Jeff Lieberson, the organization’s vice president of public affairs, in an email to ScienceInsider. APLU includes 238 institutions, including many major research universities.
  • The American Physiological Society (APS) in Bethesda, Maryland. 22 April is the first day of the APS annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which could create a conflict for the society’s members, APS Communications Manager Stacy Brooks wrote in an email. She noted that it’s not clear whether APS will play a role in the march and that the society has not been contacted by march organizers, adding, “We hope that the energy generated by the March inspires more people to advocate on behalf of research and discovery for many years to come.” (about 10,500 members).
  • “At this point, we are not engaged with” the march, says a spokesperson for the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, a nonprofit research organization based in Fairbanks, Alaska.

So far no organizations have explicitly come out against the march. But American Institute of Physics Chief Executive Robert Brown suggested in an email that any “inflammatory demonstrations will cause negative retaliations.”

March organizers have yet to present a detailed mission statement and official leadership team, and Sigma Xi’s Vernon thinks most organizations will hesitate to take a formal position until that happens.