What started out as a march on Washington, D.C., has grown into well over 400 marches in more than 35 countries on 22 April. Some international participants are worried about science under the Trump administration; others have local concerns; many feel that science and reason are under threat. Science's correspondents talked to marchers from 17 countries; click on the flags to jump straight to their stories.
We need to be more inclusive in science
I am a proud Australian Aboriginal woman, of the Dunghutti and Bundjalung peoples. I heard about the March for Science through Twitter and then one of the organizers invited me to join the Australian organizing committee. I see it as an opportunity to bridge the science and Aboriginal Australian communities.
Aboriginal Australian cultures are rich in science, having developed over 65,000 years a knowledge of natural, ecological sustainability that was applied to our own lands. These methodologies are now important for bushlands that need vegetation and renewal, and they could be applied to Australian national parks and marine areas.
The march is important at several levels: I’m from a small town and there is a big movement back home to promote natural and sustainable farming in response to the trend toward big-business agriculture. The local river runs into the ocean, carrying run-off pollution that has caused algal blooms. At the national level, there is the Great Barrier Reef, where shipping and overfishing are killing the ocean and Australian marine biodiversity. Internationally, there is a domino effect in which the policies of the United States will influence policies here. For example, coal mining is also big in Australia, and those promoting mining are not looking into the environmental impact it will have over the next 50 years.
We need to be more inclusive in science. We should promote awareness of Aboriginal Australians’ views and encourage all Aboriginal peoples interested in a science career to study and go for it. —Dennis Normile
We’re up to about 10 marches
I first heard of the March for Science through social media. We noticed a couple of march sites that started up in the United States. The response in Australia has not been as substantial as in the U.S., but I think it has been positive and relatively strong. We’re a bit disappointed that the big science associations are not participating. But we are up to about 10 marches. As for participation, we’ll find out on 22 April. If it doesn’t rain, we might have a few thousand in each city.
I have long been concerned about the alarmingly low level of appreciation for science exhibited by politicians in Australia as well as in other countries. I firmly believe that an improved appreciation for science holds the key to all of the great challenges we currently face. It’s not just climate change; the antivaccination and anti–water fluoridation movements are fairly big here. There is a general lack of trust in and respect for what science can tell us; people don’t know how much faith to put into science. If the science doesn’t suit their preconceived beliefs, people feel open to alternatives.
Science is very global. I collaborate with people in other countries every day, use data developed by other research groups, and make knowledge and information available to others. If science suffers in one country, the whole system suffers. Especially if that country has been contributing as much as the U.S. —Dennis Normile
Science has always had open borders
On 22 April I would normally have been at a retreat with about 100 other scientists of our research project on RNA biology. But I was contacted by Oliver Lehman, the organizer of the march here in Vienna, and we have decided to skip lunch and cut the retreat short so that we can all take part in the March for Science.
It’s important to advocate for science. Antienlightenment sentiments are rising worldwide. Many Austrians are against genetic engineering but don’t know what a gene is, for instance. I have a problem with that. It’s almost fashionable to be against science nowadays.
But this march is part of a global movement that has really gained momentum after Trump’s inauguration. We had a similar situation here in Austria last year. There was a lot of fear that the populist Norbert Hofer would win the presidential elections, but a movement for enlightenment and tolerance, full of optimism, sprang up. This march feels like a continuation of that, and like science itself, it is international. Science has always had open borders, more so than nation states.
I think the march will be fairly big. We’re still discussing what signs we want to make. There will be tables set out along the route where people can do experiments and scientists can engage with the public. Saturday afternoon is a good time because there will be lots of people in the city. —Kai Kupferschmidt
This is not a march against Trump
The last and only time I went to a protest was as a pupil. This was around 1968, and we were marching to change the school system, which was too hierarchical. This time I am marching for two reasons: One is that the employees at the Max Planck Society, the Ph.D. students, the directors, will be happy to see their president showing his support for the movement. And I have a strong personal motivation: Today, science is more important than ever before, but evidence and knowledge are being questioned in many places, including politics. Like many people, I have been following the political developments in the last 18 months with great concern.
This is a march pro-science and pro-facts, not a march against Trump. Of course, in the U.S., Trump has come to symbolize how little facts and evidence are currently being valued in politics, and that scientific freedom is restricted in part because results are politically inconvenient. But we face the same concerns in Europe; for example, a leading university is under threat in Hungary. In addition, the Max Planck Society has employees from all over the world—including from Iran, China, and Turkey. Many of these researchers know how science is restricted in their countries of origin. And that is often connected with restrictions of freedom in general. They want to say clearly that science should be free everywhere, that people should be free everywhere.
I expect the march in Munich to be very diverse. It’s a cosmopolitan city that has the highest density of science in Germany. I think that younger people especially will take the opportunity to march for their future. They will face the consequences of our global problems in their lifetimes. We have to spell out to society that we cannot solve these problems without science. —Kai Kupferschmidt
It will be a powerful image from this remote corner that people care
I decided early on that I would really like to go to the March for Science. I figured I could use some airline miles to get to D.C. Because I’m a field glaciologist, I was going to bring my parka, Baffin boots, and ski goggles. When the date was announced, I realized I was going to be in Greenland. Then about 3 minutes later, I realized there wasn’t any reason we couldn’t do it there.
Several other teams will be there, many from Europe, staging in Kangerlussuaq, a town of maybe 600 people. It has the main airport in Greenland; roughly half the town is employed by the airport. I got in touch with Nini Frydkjær Holstebro, a Greenlander and a friend, to make sure that local officials were OK with it. She’s a small business owner and a pillar of the community.
Due to the recent political turmoil here in the United States, I’ve become more active politically in the last year than I ever was in my life. Science in our country—and we’re not the only place—is coming under attack. Scientists are being portrayed as nefarious people. I work on a project funded by NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Program, part of NASA’s earth science division. Trump recently proposed cuts to the division—at a really crucial time.
The changes we’re seeing in Greenland are dramatic. People in Kangerlussuaq have a reason to care. A bridge partly washed out in 2012, due to runoff from the ice sheet. I liken the attacks on science to turning off the headlights. We’re driving fast and people don’t want to see what’s coming up. Scientists—we’re the headlights.
I’ve spent a couple hundred dollars of my own money on a 12-foot banner. It says “March for Science, Greenland. Science not Silence.” I plan to put up signs around town. We’ll invite anyone who wants to come. We’ll walk from the port station to the bridge. It will be like three blocks. Then we’ll drive out to the ice sheet and get some photos. Our march is just one of many, but it will be a powerful image from this remote corner that people care. —Erik Stokstad
Kristinn Ingvarsson, University of Iceland
This is one of the biggest things we’ve done for science in Iceland
This is one of the biggest things we’ve done for science in Iceland. We’re going to march from a hill called Skólavörðuholt where there is a statue of Leif Erikson. That’s a bit symbolic. He discovered America, and now America is in trouble. We’re walking half a kilometer down to the center of the city. We’ll have a seminar with three speakers, talking about public policy and funding issues in Iceland. An American sociologist will tell us about the atmosphere in America.
We got the idea for the march just after the Trump administration took over. We saw a disregard for science. People got very scared for the future of the planet. First of all, it’s the issue of what the Trump administration will do about global warming.
It’s also the idea of informed policy, of evidence-based policies. We have to fight for that here in Iceland, like everywhere. Politicians use evidence when it fits their views. We feel like we’re shunned when it does not suit them. And we’re really struggling and fighting for proper funding of science. They’re cutting some of the competitive funds. We need 60% more funding to reach the average of [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries. This is not a very ambitious goal for a rich country.
The person leading the march, Ævar Þor Benediktsson, is a bit of a TV celebrity here. He hosts a show for children about science and he also has a radio program. He’s a very positive, fun guy. One of the goals is to get people involved, to get them to think about science. Everyone should feel like they are part of science. —Erik Stokstad
Courtesy Marco Valente
We feel there is a lack of respect towards academia
I am a member of a network of university researchers that promotes better policies for public universities and fights research cuts. When we learned about the March for Science in the United States, we thought we had good reasons to join them. Science is being challenged in Italy as well; scientific evidence is questioned, and it is often distorted for political needs. The way the Xylella fastidiosa outbreak in olive trees in southern Italy was handled; the vaccine debate, with the dramatic drop of vaccination rates; or the infamous Stamina case, where an unproven therapy was tested on humans due to media pressure, are good examples. Newspapers and political parties often depict science, research, and professors in negative terms. We feel there is a lack of respect towards academia. Many people don’t know how much authority to attribute to various sources of information.
We will participate in the march without any affiliation to specific groups and without a specific platform of demands. We just want to engage public opinion on the risk of losing scientific objectivity. Many people are letting us know they will support us, and we are beginning to receive the support of [nongovernmental organizations], universities, and research centers.
What do we expect? That people understand the difference between a scientific debate and a debate about the future of society. As an academic, I would also expect politicians to trust us more. For at least 10 years, politicians have only produced repressive policies for universities. They don’t see academia as a promoter of knowledge but as a teaching institution. Finally, we’d like to see more attention towards global warming, with effective policies and more pressure on the U.S. to force them to change their position. —Luca Tancredi Barone
Courtesy Rintaro Mori
Science provides an objective view that is important for decision-making
This is the first time I have been involved in such an activity. I have a huge concern and also have professional and academic interests in the sustainability of our global society. I believe the scientific community has a very important role to address issues honestly, even challenging taboos, to provide objective information so as to achieve sustainable development. We’re not advocating for funding. Rather, science provides an objective view that is important for decision-making. Too many decisions are biased by vested interests, and this is leading our society in a wrong way. I think the march is a very good opportunity to help the general public recognize this important role of the scientific community.
One interesting phenomenon in this context is the use of the human papillomavirus vaccine. This is standard in many countries but Japan is well behind because of a series of events that created adverse publicity. The government has not been able to make a decision. The scientific community can help.
Cochrane is one of the organizations supporting the March for Science. I don’t think the march is very prominent in the Japanese community yet. I am discussing how we are going to participate with my colleagues. We are still waiting for approval from the police department. (There was a delay in applying for march permits.) There should be no problem. But without that we cannot circulate information about what we are doing. We wouldn’t expect a huge number of people. —Dennis Normile
We’ve realized we don’t want to focus too much on Trump
I heard about the March for Science when the academy received an invitation to participate from AAAS [Science’s publisher]. Another group was already organizing a march for science down Reforma Avenue, but I have had no luck getting in touch with them. So the academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine got together and decided to organize a parallel rally outside of the Palacio de Minería, a landmark colonial building downtown that used to be an engineering school.
At first the main motivation was Donald Trump’s policies, especially about immigration. Limitations on visas could affect thousands of Mexican students and researchers, even those who simply want to attend a scientific meeting in the U.S. Maintaining international collaborations and openness benefits everyone. The fact that the U.S. has been able to attract the best students from around the world has been a source of strength and richness for the country. Mexico has more students in the U.S. than in any other country, and we also have many engineers working at NASA, for example.
But as the organizing has gone on, we’ve realized we don’t want to focus too much on Trump. We want to send a larger message about how important science is for Mexico’s economic development and how it can create change in our country
There isn’t a long history of activism for science in Mexico. Political protests happen all the time in Mexico City, and they don’t seem to change anything. Many people here don’t see the point of marching for anything anymore. Our challenge is to overcome people’s apathy and convince them to participate in this one, which we hope will be part of a global movement. —Lizzie Wade
I’m in. Absolutely
I’ve never marched for science before, but on April 22 I’m in. Absolutely. Academic freedom is one of the most important issues to me, and recent developments in Europe have threatened it. The Hungarian government has signed a decree that targets and silences Central European University. I don’t need to tell you that many academics in Turkey have been arrested and detained. I find that very worrisome. I’m concerned about the United States as well. Climate science is often sidelined without proper arguments and people promote ‘alternative facts’ that have no basis in academic research. Of course there are issues in the Netherlands as well, but they’re a different order of magnitude.
I’m not the type of rector to start recruiting people for the march. This is not something that should come from the board; people can make up their own minds. But I know the issue is very widely discussed, and I think there will be a big delegation from our university, both students and staff. I know that rectors of several other universities are joining as well. This is something that the academic community in the Netherlands feels strongly about and we hope to send a clear message. —Martin Enserink
Trump was the thing that initiated it
Because of the time difference, we were the first place in the world to march for women and we can be the first to march for scientists. We expect to have three or four marches around the country. Mind you, we are a country of just 3 to 4 million, with 11,000 scientists and an equal number of research students. And the march is not just for scientists; anyone who values science can participate. I’m going to be a speaker. I’m tentatively scheduled to talk at the Wellington march, but it’s not coming together as strongly as the one in Auckland, so I might go up to there.
Trump was the thing that initiated it; we even put out a press release about his election. We have issues here but if it were not for the new U.S. administration, they would not have been enough to get us into the streets. As president of the society, we advocate for science and reject pseudoscience. We try to inject science into policy. We are a small player, so we depend on results from the rest of the world. There’s a big concern that if there’s an overall downturn in science, it will embolden people locally and internationally to cease to value the view of science.
For New Zealand, this march comes at a good time. This is an election year and the march puts science more firmly in the political picture. It will raise the appreciation of science. —Elizabeth Pennisi
I feel everyone should know about it
I am planning to march because I believe in society. We need to stand up for things we believe in, whether that is science, knowledge, or the value of evidence-based policy and informed democratic discourse. I feel like everyone should know about it, but the reality is that many New Zealanders have more important things to worry about than the status of science!
Because science careers are often international, we need to stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the U.S. who are affected by the politicization of science and loss of funding. But even more than that, I am concerned with the dismissal of scientific and other forms of knowledge as the basis for rational conversation, and ultimately agreement within society. In New Zealand, former Prime Minister John Key famously said about scientist Mike Joy, who has raised concern about the impact of the dairy industry on freshwater quality, ‘He’s one academic, and like lawyers, I can provide you with another one that will give you a counter view.’
After the march is over, I think we are going to see a lot more soul searching within the scientific community about the purpose of a march, whether it has achieved anything, and whether more collective action, perhaps internationally, is necessary in order to make progress on the issues that have been raised. One of the big issues is the issue of diversity in the scientific community, which is being widely discussed using the hashtag #marginsci. —Elizabeth Pennisi
This may be the most northern March for Science
I think this may be the most northern March for Science. It will start at one of the research institutes and go through the city center. In April, the weather in Tromsø can be everything from snow, to rain, to sun. I have a feeling that people are determined to attend. The Norwegians in general are not very sensitive to weather. We say, ‘There’s never bad weather, only bad clothing.’
My first reaction was that I wanted to participate to support my colleagues in the U.S. When I thought more about it, I realized it’s not just in the U.S.; supporting and recognizing the importance of knowledge is a global issue. There are issues in Norway related to resources, particularly oil and fisheries. If you want to use resources sustainably, it’s important to base your decision on knowledge.
It will be the first demonstration I have ever participated in. I think it’s really important that people understand that most scientists work for the benefit of all of us. At the moment, my colleagues and I are doing research in the field of using [carbon dioxide] as a carbon source to make drugs, fuels, and plastics, instead of using oil. The other topic we work on is antibiotic resistance. It’s a good example of how ignoring knowledge can have important consequences for global health.
There are marches all over the world. It would be very nice if that would encourage politicians as well as industrial leaders to really make decisions based on facts and not belief. —Erik Stokstad
We are planning a day filled with small events
This is the first march the network participates in. The Polish march has not been organized as an action against Donald Trump, although his international policy certainly worries us. In Poland, we are facing many other issues of concern. The right-wing government and conservative majority in the Parliament have introduced several changes to the legal system and new regulations for public institutions that many Polish people perceive as a serious threat to democracy.
In the field of science, the government recently announced serious changes to the university system without widely consulting the scientific community. The main goal, it seems, is to make the university an entrepreneurial institution driven by market rules, competition, flexible employment, and cooperation with industry. There is now pressure and censorship on researchers in the social sciences and humanities to favor conservative and religious ideology. Polish science has other problems as well. It lacks a transparent granting system, a simple academic career path, and clear rules for promotion.
We are planning a day filled with small events at different locations in Warsaw, including a lecture on the role of science in politics and society, workshops, and scientific cafés. We hope that the informal atmosphere will enable the public to feel that they are touching science and that science really matters in their everyday lives. We would also like to be heard and treated seriously by the minister of science and higher education. —Elizabeth Pain
European Union, 2017/Nicolas Kovarik
Science is not a dispensable luxury
I’m really proud that the call for the March for Science resonated in so many countries and that a march is organized in my home country, Portugal. About 480 marches are planned—for now—on the 22nd of April: It shows the broad support across the globe for research and science.
Science is not a dispensable luxury. We need science for the advancement of our societies and to inform our education, improve our policies, and spur innovation. Science, as a common good, also helps all of us to make sense of and navigate the more and more complex world we live in. So when special interests threaten scientific evidence and long-term research and when access to and diffusion of science is hampered, we have to stand up in support of the scientific community.
As the EU commissioner for research, science and innovation, I’m very proud to stand up for science and join the march in Lisbon. —Elizabeth Pain
Courtesy of Nazario Martín
The global and local issues go hand in hand
I have marched for science in the past, but this march is pretty unique because it originated in the United States in response to the denial of demonstrated scientific facts like evolution and global warming by Trump and his cabinet. This is no joke: It represents a threat for science and could affect the health and the future of our planet. Countries in Europe are reacting to this tsunami from the United States by defending science not only globally but also within their own national context. The global and local issues go hand in hand.
In Spain, the situation is worrying because our political leadership shows no interest in empowering science. The government budget for 2017 represents a 2.6% decrease for research projects and institutions. The National Research Agency that the scientific community had been demanding for years is now starting operations, but it lacks the multiyear funding and scientific independence that were originally promised. All in all, we demand more financial support for research but also a better representation of science in politics.
There isn’t much of a tradition of marches and protests among Spanish scientists, so at COSCE we launched a manifesto for science, in the hope to make up for a possible lack of physical support in Madrid on 22 April. We will be meeting representatives of the Spanish Parliament on 26 April and it would be great if we could gather the signatures of several thousands of scientists. I am also hoping that the public realizes the importance of science for social progress and welfare, and will join the march and the manifesto. —Elizabeth Pain
Courtesy Eun-Kyoung Jee
We will highlight the need for more women scientists and engineers
I have an interest in communication between scientists and the public. I have loved science for a long time and when I talk to people about science I realize it is separate from their lives, especially in Korea. We have people who reject using chemical products such as bleach, detergent, and toothpaste. We say they have ‘chemophobia.’ It’s similar to the antivaccine feelings in the United States. I have a concern about this because my major is chemistry. I am also really concerned that the divide between science and the public will become more vast under Trump’s administration. This will be felt in the U.S. at first but the effect will spread worldwide because of the power of the United States.
I heard about the march at a meeting of Femicircuit, a union of women science and engineering students, faculty, and graduates affiliated with top Korean universities. The environment is not favorable for women. There are numerous inequalities and inconveniences. There are even fewer toilets for women in science and engineering buildings. Our goals are to talk about this and make an environment that is equal. Maybe 16 or 17 members of Femicircuit will participate, and we’ll have an information booth to highlight the need for more women scientists and engineers. The March for Science is occurring all over the world, and we are trying to make participants here feel they are part of a global effort. —Dennis Normile
Tropical Institute of Development Innovations
Everyone is upbeat and excited about the event
I evaluate biotechnology that might be developed in Uganda, mostly plant varieties. When we got information about the event organized in Washington, D.C., we thought, ‘Yes, it is a really important thing to do for Uganda.’ We have come together with the National Agricultural Research Organisation and other groups to show solidarity and to demonstrate to Uganda and the world at large that science has evolved over time and we cannot do without it.
We are going to march from the ministry of science and technology for about 5 kilometers through the main street of Kampala. We are going to carry placards with information on how science has been useful, and some of the tools that we no longer think we need to use, like the hand hoe. We have other technology like genetically engineered crops that are resistant to herbicides. We don’t want this hoe. It is breaking our backs. We will carry all the old models of phones. We will carry herbal medicine.
When we get to the Parliament, one of us will read a petition. We have requested that the speaker of the Parliament talk to us about the government’s position on science and technology. They should pass the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill. That will allow the government to regulate genetically engineered crops in a manner that is safe.
We are going to have farmers, professionals, civil servants, and politicians in the march. When we contacted the police for clearance, they said police officers can also participate, because it is nonpolitical. The police have a brass band. A band is very good at mobilizing people. Everyone is upbeat and excited about the event. It’s going to be historical. —Erik Stokstad
The march is a jolly good thing
I strongly support the march for a host of reasons, which I articulated in a blog I wrote for the London march. I think that we are entering unchartered waters in this era of ‘Brex-ump’ and, more than ever, the world needs science; after all, through technology, it is the dominant force on modern culture. (And yes, all you snobs out there, culture is as much about science as it is about the performing arts!)
I am alarmed by the rise of rhetoric that mocks experts, uneasy about whether the lifeblood of science—the global movement of people and ideas—will pump so freely in the era of Brex-ump and dismayed by ‘policy-based evidencemaking,’ which includes moves to curtail research that challenges government dogma with inconvenient truths. And, yes, I do think this is indeed a global issue. In a nutshell, though I cannot make it for personal reasons, I think the march is a jolly good thing. —Daniel Clery