The next big march on Washington could flood the Mall with scientists.
It's an idea spawned on Reddit, where several scientists — concerned about the new president's policies on climate change and other issues, and hyped from the success of the Women's March on Washington — were discussing the best way to respond to what they feared would be an administration hostile to science.
Then someone wrote, “There needs to be a Scientists' March on Washington.”
"100%,” someone replied. Dozens of others agreed.
One participant in the exchange, University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Berman, took the conversation to heart. In short order, the march had a Facebook page (whose membership swelled from 200 people on Tuesday night to more than 300,000 by Wednesday evening), a Twitter handle, a website, two co-chairs, Berman and science writer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg, and a Google form through which interested researchers could sign up to help.
Right now, that's all it has. But, as the women's march on Saturday demonstrated, social movements have started with less.
Weinberg said that the news Tuesday that scientists with some federal research agencies were barred from communicating with the public “lit a fire under us.”
“We were inspired (well, infuriated) by the current attacks on science from the new administration,” she wrote in an email. “Slashing funding and restricting scientists from communicating their findings (from tax-funded research!) with the public is absurd and cannot be allowed to stand as policy.”
Weinberg, Berman and others who have expressed interest will meet (virtually) this weekend to develop a more robust plan. They're looking to team up with other proponents of a scientists' march — since they're not the first people to float the idea. And "sister marches" in other cities, including Boston and Seattle, also appear to be in the works.
According to the group's website, the march is aimed not just at scientists. "Anyone who believes in empirical science [can participate]," the site reads. "That's it. That's the only requirement." Apparently aware of the conflicts over inclusion of minorities the Women's March, organizers pledged to establish a diversity committee and to ensure that the steering committee is diverse.
The group tweeted Wednesday that the date of the march will be announced next week.
This post has been updated.