The marches come as President Donald Trump proposes slashing $5.8 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall and pulling the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate accord that aims to keep global warming below 2°C. These prospects not only threaten scientific and medical advancements, researchers warn, they are also an attack on democracy.
As Karen Antman, Harris Berman, George Q. Daley, and Terence R. Flotte—the deans of Boston University School of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and University of Massachusetts Medical School, respectively—wrote for the Boston Globe on Thursday:
The NIH funding cuts would set in motion the unraveling of the biomedical enterprise by cutting off vital research dollars from critical research. The human toll of doing so would reverberate long into the future.
These cuts would effectively wipe out a generation of brilliant young scientists just starting their careers in academia, while dissuading others from entering the field altogether.
As the Washington Post reported in March, Trump's budget proposal "breaks with a history of bipartisan support for federally funded science."
The Globe authors say an "erosion of the public trust in science" brought about by industry lobbyists has resulted in "a widening rift between critical thinking and alternative facts."
"We must make a sustained effort to engage the public and to make science meaningful, relevant, and captivating. We must capture the imagination of the very people whom our mission benefits and share with them our own enthusiasm for science," they write. "In a few days, the March for Science will be over. The electrifying euphoria will begin to dissipate. We mustn't let this happen, for this is the fight for our future."
The science march also precedes the Peoples Climate March on April 29. As climate advocates note, the events are meant to be symbiotic—one is about listening to science, and the other is about acting on it.
"Science has helped us understand the climate crisis, now we need to demand political action to help solve it," said Ploy Achakulwisut, a PhD candidate in Atmospheric Science at Harvard University, for 350.org, one of the climate march organizing groups.
"The March for Science calls for science-based policymaking, and the Peoples Climate March puts this value into practice by opposing Trump's reckless anti-climate agenda, defending the integrity of climate science and democracy, and standing up for justice," Achakulwisut said.
MIT and Harvard renewable energy modeler Dr. Geoffrey Supran added, "The March for Science and the Peoples Climate March go hand-in-hand."
"Because attacks on science don't just hurt scientists, they hurt scientists' ability to protect the people, and climate change epitomizes that," Supran said. "When politicians cater to fossil fuel interests by denying the basic realities of climate science and pursuing anti-science climate policy, they endanger the jobs, justice, and livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere. The Peoples Climate March is about scientists and citizens uniting to protect the people and places we love by demanding that evidence, not ideology, inform policy."