NEWS From Alaska to Georgia, Why 6 Scientists Will March on Washington

From Alaska to Geor­gia, Why 6 Sci­en­tists Will March on Washington

APRIL 21, 2017

Thou­sands of sci­en­tists and their sup­port­ers are prepar­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the March for Sci­ence on Sat­ur­day, but the run-​​up to the event hasn’t been with­out con­tro­versy. Some sci­en­tists have charged that plan­ning for the march con­tra­dicted larger goals of diver­sity,while other sci­en­tists have wor­ried that the effort might appear par­ti­san to the pub­lic, and thereby hurt the stand­ing of schol­ars in the field.

Despite the con­tro­versy, the sci­en­tists who plan to attend the main march, in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., as well as hun­dreds of smaller ones else­where, say they’re doing so with a pri­mary goal in mind: to send the mes­sage that sci­ence matters.

The Chron­i­cle spoke to six sci­en­tists who will be trav­el­ing to the nation’s cap­i­tal about their hopes and expec­ta­tions for the day.

Chris B. Schaf­fer, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of bio­med­ical engi­neer­ing, Cor­nell University:

Cour­tesy Chris B. Schaffer

Mr. Schaf­fer, who has a back­ground in pol­icy and runs a small pro­gram for stu­dents who are inter­ested in advo­cacy, said he would be trav­el­ing to D.C. with three buses of stu­dents. He said he hoped the march wouldn’t just carry the theme of “sci­en­tists against the Trump administration.”“It’s excit­ing to see sci­en­tists want­ing to come out and do some­thing other than plug away at ques­tions in their labs,” he said. “I hope that this is a first step toward a much greater degree of engage­ment between sci­en­tists and the public.”

After the march, he hopes to see more sci­en­tists engage in “sus­tained, low-​​level com­mit­ments” such as reg­u­larly speak­ing in schools, offer­ing pro bono advice to busi­nesses, and lob­by­ing local lawmakers.

Ellen Chenoweth, Ph.D. stu­dent in ecol­ogy and marine biol­ogy, Uni­ver­sity of Alaska at Fairbanks:

Cour­tesy Ellen Chenoweth

Ms. Chenoweth does research on hump­back whales and how they for­age in the marine envi­ron­ment. She said that she’s “not usu­ally much of a marcher” but that the March for Sci­ence “kind of spoke to me — I felt like I could make a difference.“She said that she wanted to go to D.C. to make sure that rural researchers and young women were rep­re­sented, not just “your typ­i­cal lab-​​coat researchers.” Accord­ingly, she will wear what she wears in the field, or at least a mod­i­fied ver­sion of it. “I’d love to wear a full float suit, but I think it would be way too hot,” she said.

Ms. Chenoweth will fly to D.C. alone, but will carry a sign with the sig­na­tures of her friends and col­leagues who couldn’t make it. “I’m hop­ing it’s a really pos­i­tive event,” she said. “I’m com­ing with an open mind. I’m hop­ing to be inspired by lots of other sci­en­tists, and I’m hop­ing that there’ll be a diver­sity of sci­en­tists represented.”

Chris Gunter, pro­fes­sor of pedi­atrics, Emory Uni­ver­sity School of Medicine:

Cour­tesy Chris Gunter

Ms. Gunter, who also leads com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Mar­cus Autism Cen­ter, in Atlanta, will travel to D.C. from Geor­gia with her teenage son. As a sci­ence com­mu­ni­ca­tor, Ms. Gunter said she feels strongly that engage­ment is an impor­tant part of her job, and she wants peo­ple to see “that sci­en­tists are peo­ple too.” Though she and her son thought about wear­ing cos­tumes to the march, they decided to sport the offi­cial march T-​​shirts so that they would look more “everyday.”“I’m hop­ing the march will ener­gize peo­ple,” said Ms. Gunter. “A sort of paral­y­sis can set in when we hear over and over about threats to sci­ence. I think many of us are look­ing for ideas about what would be the best action to take to make a difference.”

Ms. Gunter recently joined the Atlanta chap­ter of 500 Women Sci­en­tists, a nation­wide group of female researchers who advo­cate for equal­ity in sci­ence. She said she hopes to get ideas from the march about what the orga­ni­za­tion could do in the future, whether that’s fight­ing bud­get cuts, improv­ing sci­ence out­reach and engage­ment, or tak­ing legal action against discrimination.

Bradley J. Car­di­nale, pro­fes­sor of nat­ural resources, Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan at Ann Arbor:

UM Photo Ser­vices, Austin Thomason

Mr. Cardinale’s research focuses on pro­tect­ing the Great Lakes. Under Pres­i­dent Trump’s pro­posed bud­get for 2018, deep cuts could force Mr. Car­di­nale and many of his col­leagues to aban­don their research, he said. “I see these as per­sonal exam­ples of a cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion that really doesn’t value sci­ence, and doesn’t value facts,” he said. “Attend­ing the march is my way of stand­ing up and say­ing, like many other sci­en­tists, ‘Sci­ence is impor­tant for society.’“Mr. Car­di­nale will attend the march with his wife and two chil­dren. He laughed as he said his 8-​​year-​​old daugh­ter was “very anx­ious to march and insist that politi­cians use evi­dence when mak­ing decisions.”

He said he would con­sider the march a suc­cess if it resulted in Mr. Trump’s get­ting “a legit­i­mate sci­en­tist as an adviser in his cabinet.”

Mau­rice K. Craw­ford, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of marine sci­ence, Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land East­ern Shore:

Cour­tesy Mau­rice K. Crawford

Mr. Craw­ford is a fish ecol­o­gist who pre­vi­ously helped to shape the United States Agency for Inter­na­tional Development’s climate-​​change pol­icy. He said he wanted to attend the march in D.C. to send a mes­sage to the cur­rent Repub­li­can admin­is­tra­tion about the impor­tance of using evi­dence in mak­ing pol­icy. “My sense is that they’re aban­don­ing that process,” he said. While he doesn’t think that Pres­i­dent Trump is likely to respond to the march, he hopes that peo­ple in Con­gress might​.Mr. Craw­ford will travel with his wife, but he said he knows a num­ber of col­leagues at his uni­ver­sity will also attend the march. He plans to carry a Star Wars–inspired sign that reads: “Fear leads to the dark side.”

Mr. Craw­ford, who is African-​​American, said he hasn’t fol­lowed the con­tro­versy over the march orga­niz­ers’ han­dling of diver­sity and inclu­sion, but he doesn’t “expect to see many peo­ple that look like me.”

As a stu­dent I could prob­a­bly name every African-​​American in marine sci­ence in the coun­try,” he added. “I can’t do that any­more, so that is progress.”

Daniel M. Kam­men, pro­fes­sor of energy, Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berkeley:

Cour­tesy Daniel M. Kammen

As a coor­di­nat­ing lead author for the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change and a sci­ence envoy for the U.S. State Depart­ment, Mr. Kam­men has spent a lot of time think­ing about how clean energy could shape for­eign policy.He said he’s attend­ing the March for Sci­ence because “sci­ence does appear to be under direct threat.” Asked whether he’s allowed to par­tic­i­pate in the march as a sci­ence envoy for the State Depart­ment, Mr. Kam­men said, “No one has told me that I can’t.” He’ll be meet­ing a hand­ful of his stu­dents at the march.

Mr. Kam­men said he thinks the march’s suc­cess will be mea­sured by the num­ber of peo­ple who attend, and by the oppor­tu­ni­ties it cre­ates for sci­en­tists and engi­neers to start con­ver­sa­tions with the news media and to meet their rep­re­sen­ta­tives in D.C.

It pains me that we need to do this,” he said, “but I’m hop­ing those con­ver­sa­tions by a diverse set of researchers will be the really excit­ing out­come from this.”



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