‘The search for truth’
The March for Science Fairbanks is a way to limit the politicization of science and to connect with the community—an action which is particularly important in recent times, according to campus scientists.
“My scientist colleagues and I are all feeling very stressed out,” wrote Microbiology Professor Mary Beth Leigh in an email. “It’s painful to be so committed to helping society and then to see those efforts devalued. It’s also really scary to see misinformation and poor logic being perpetuated, especially when it can harm people.”
The politicization of science
“There is a thought that this might be another way to politicize science—which scientists should stay out of—we should continue to be neutral brokers of information,” said Olivia Lee, a marine ecology research professor.
“A Scientist’s March on Washington is a Bad Idea,” reads the headline of a New York Times opinion piece published on Jan. 31, which suggests that the march will only reinforce the politicization of science. Several scientists on campus referenced this article in particular.
“I agree that this march is unlikely to change the minds of people who are already staunchly opposed to certain sectors of science for one reason or another,” Leigh wrote. “Nonetheless, I do think the march will still serve many valuable functions. It will serve to remind people of the many ways that science serves society and makes their lives better.”
Eicken thinks that politicization is a legitimate concern, however he states the organizers have done a good job of separating themselves political events. Eicken emphasized that the march could be a good opportunity to discuss the role of science in the community.
“This, I would argue, is less of a march of protest and more of a positive message to say be careful about politicizing things that are beneficial across the board,” Eicken said. “We’re here ultimately to provide information to the citizens of Alaska and to the U.S. in general, what is the type of information needed?”
The goal of the march
Olivia Lee stated that the march is a way for scientists and the community to show that they value scientific research.
“The understanding that science is important for the overall safety and well being of the country and of society,” Lee said. “We’re at very real risk of losing a lot of just basic necessities, services and information that science provides.”
For Physics Professor David Newman, the march is to emphasize that science should not be restricted for political reasons
“First and foremost, science is nonpartisan, it’s completely nonpartisan,” Newman said. “People who are marching for science … are saying that the search for truth is what science is all about and that search for truth is something that can only benefit society.”
Plant Ecologist Katie Spellman brought up an issue that the march could alleviate; that scientists are not doing a good enough job of communicating science to the public—particularly that scientists can seem disingenuous to the public.
“For me, I think it’s an opportunity to show that scientists are real people,” Spellman said. “Science is for helping solve real problems in the world.”
Christa Mulder, one of the co-organizers said that her hope for the March would be to bring awareness to the importance of having facts and data to back up policies. As well as to show that there is a lot of support for science in Alaska and in Fairbanks.
“The more we invest in science and science education the better we will be for the future,” Newman said. “It’s a really strong investment in the future and it pays really really handsome dividends.”