Organisers of the second annual March for Science , scheduled for 14 April in Washington DC, are hoping to recapture the energy and enthusiasm that prompted more than 1 million researchers and others to march together last year across 600 cities around the world in support of evidence-based policy and upholding science for the greater good.
Caroline Weinberg, an organizer for the upcoming march in Washington DC, expects smaller crowds than last year, although she admits her prediction may again be off the mark. “Last we expected 40,000 people, and we got around 100,000,” she says. She adds that most of the marchers in the nation’s capital city were concerned citizens, not practicing researchers.
In Washington DC and elsewhere, organisers envision events with fewer marchers, placards and chants but more advocacy-related activities. Weinberg and others aim to offer hands-on projects for those taking to the streets in Washington DC. In Berlin, Germany, organisers are planning a “local hero” programme where scientists will give public talks at bars, cafes and other venues. March-related activities in Portland, Oregon, will include speeches by local politicians and a science expo with at least 30 presenters, including a juggler who demonstrates the principles of physics.
The election and inauguration of Donald Trump for US president helped to spur marchers last year, and Weinberg says that she suspects that some scientists this year may be motivated to speak out against Trump’s recent budget proposal, which called for drastic cuts to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending plan . But she adds that the march and other forms of science activism shouldn’t depend on crises to draw interest and participation. “Our challenge is to build up a huge crowd and send a message that galvanizes everyone but to also make it sustainable,” she says. “We can’t allow our advocacy to be tethered to those moments.”
Roughly 15,000 people attended last year’s march in Portland, but that kind of enthusiasm will be hard to replicate, says Denesa Oberbeck, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and a member of the steering committee for this year’s march. “There’s some fatigue and some burnout, but we need to keep fighting,” she says. “We have to maintain an activist stance.”
Kristine Wadosky, a cancer researcher at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, marched in Washington DC last year carrying a sign that read “Curing cancer is non-partisan.” This year, she plans to join the march in Chicago, Illinois, where she will give a talk on advanced prostate cancer for the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. She says that she’s just as energized about science advocacy as ever before, and she thinks that many other young scientists feel the same way.
This time, Wadosky says, she won’t need a sign to send her message, which isn’t especially complicated. “I just want to go to show that I’m a scientists, and I exist,” she says.
Chris Woolston is a freelance writer in Billings, Montana.