It has been six months since scientists and science supporters marched on Washington and 600 cities around the world. We asked readers: How has your life changed since the March for Science?
Here's what you had to say. (Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.)
I'm running for local office in Somerville, Mass., as a first-time candidate. I think that we need scientists in office not only at the national level, but at all levels, including the very local. ... At the Boston March, George Church said, “All you nerds need to run for office!” Just last week, he spoke at a campaign rally of mine in Somerville, to a room full of politically engaged local science folks who want to get more involved in electoral politics at all levels.
— Ben Ewen-Campen, biology postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School
Scientists have an essential role to play in the Trump era, and it is our duty to bridge the communication gap between scientists and policymakers. I personally have been scheduling more frequent meetings with my senators and representatives, and paying close attention to the appropriations process so I am able to communicate what is happening at the federal level to those here at home in a way that is easy to understand. I frequently challenge myself to write letters to the editor and op-eds, and a few (to my surprise) have been published.
— Naomi Charalambakis, PhD candidate at the University of Louisville School of Medicine
There is no one protest that can change misguided government policies. It is only the sustained protest from a wide swath of the population in every legitimate way possible over and over again that can reverse the course. Certainly, more researchers are politically active than they were before the march, but in the future more must participate and the public, too, must join in. Although that is a positive development, we are still living in uncertain times for scientists. The Senate and House of Representatives haven’t been able to agree on a funding bill for the National Institutes of Health. If NIH has to keep operating under continuing resolutions, the budget for research grants will effectively be reduced again. It is very difficult for young scientists to successfully apply for grant funding, which is forcing some promising young minds out of the field. Scientists need to continue speaking out about the importance of biomedical research funding.
— Richard S. Legro, MD, professor and interim chair of research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
After organizing the march here in Indianapolis with my wife, we formed a nonprofit to promote science communication and education in Indiana. We have never been in this space before, community organizing that is, but we have seen this nascent movement motivate people to have engaging conversations with their representatives and their friends and families who might have differing beliefs on science-based topics.
This movement was the spark that brought so many STEM professionals out from behind their work and into a brand-new space called science advocacy. Communities were forged over weeks of planning these large marches, but building those communities into organizations that can effect real change and then putting in the long hours to make that vision a reality . . . that will take more than a few months.
Those steps are being taken, though, and those organizations are being built. So many people were looking for a signal that other people felt the same way and were ready to work together. The simple act of giving this common affinity for science a name to huddle under empowered millions of people to come together and understand they were not alone . . . that seems like an achievement to me.
— Rufus Cochran, engineer and organizer for the Indianapolis March for Science
I find the scientific community to be mostly politically naive in how to go about having an impact. I am a member of a couple of scientific societies and cannot see that they have made much of a difference since the march.
— Linda G Silversmith, PhD, retired science writer
The rally itself was important if only as validation that the truth matters. The million people who came out declared unequivocally that they, America, and the world see “alternative facts” for what they are and reject them. In that sense, the March for Science highlighted a broader movement across society to demand more accountability before accepting claims as true. Just one example is growing awareness of the responsibilities of platforms like Facebook and Google when it comes to fake news or accepting foreign ads explicitly designed to inflame and misinform. The fact that over a million people marched in April for the idea that truth matters adds support and public pressure for reforms like those.
— Robert Cooper, postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at San Diego and organizer for the San Diego March for Science
Although I participated in the Women's March earlier in the year, the March for Science really awoke me to advocacy. I feel more connected to my community than ever, have become a regular participant in similar events, and as March for Science pivots into a permanent organization have found myself invested in its efforts to promote the connection between scientists and their communities. I've also been more aware of the importance of equity and diversity in science and have become a more outspoken advocate for fair policies in my professional organizations.
— Daniel Tell, planetarium engineer at the California Academy of Sciences
From the perspective of trying to create a long-term, sustainable movement, I think the march was less successful. Much of the work that has been done since the march took place was already in motion before March for Science was conceived — and as such, despite acting as a catalyst, I don't think that the march created a new space, community or central initiative that will ultimately drive forward progress. Rather, it raised awareness and potentially facilitated the support of projects and programs which were already being developed (or already existed). To my knowledge, those initiatives are all continuing on an individual, locally supported projects without coordination or direct connection to the March for Science organizers.
— Elyse L. Aurbach-Pruitt, PhD, communication/public engagement skills lecturer and postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at the University of Michigan
If our goals were to have a serious influence on the White House or Congress, then we did not succeed. On the other hand, the march clearly demonstrated a broad support for science among the populace. The difficulty we face is there is so much “noise” created by other issues, many stemming from the White House, that drowns out serious discussion.
— Thomas H. Mullen, retired middle-school science teacher
I think it was a great one-day event, and it seemed to generate buzz for a week or two. But I feel that we need a sustained dialogue. We need to inject scientific and rational thinking back into the public discourse, and a single march cannot do that. To be clear, I'm not saying that everyone needs to be a scientist or scientifically trained. Instead everyone needs to be critical and willing to listen to facts. This requires an openness on the part of the populace, but also better communication skills (and a willingness to be humble) on the part of experts.
— Justin Clifford Smith, postdoctoral researcher at University of California at Los Angeles