March for Science Unites People to Support Science, Funding, and Policy
The gloomy day and rain may have stopped some people from going out and marching for science on April 22, but not me. I was ready to march along the National Mall in Washington D.C., come rain or shine. To me, the march signified the importance of science in our society from fundamental research in biology to technological advances that keep people alive. I also marched for Research!America, a nonprofit advocacy alliance working to make research for health a higher national priority. As a science policy intern at Research!America, and a researcher, I understand how critical federal funding is for research and innovation.
Federal funding for scientific research hits home for me. The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation were two central federal funding agencies that supported my Ph.D. research on Lyme disease ecology. By understanding ecological factors such as forest size, wildlife diversity, and tick population changes on the maintenance of the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in natural environments, my research was able to show that certain wildlife species – both mammals and birds – can significantly contribute to higher infection levels of the bacterium in the tick populations. This, in turn affects the disease risk for people becoming infected with Lyme disease. It is through research that we can harness the power of data to make our environment and society healthier.
When I arrived at 14th Street NW and Madison, my enthusiasm for why I wanted to march for science grew even bigger. Seeing the large crowd standing in the rain and people holding signs focused on the value of science, indicated to me that science remains fundamentally important in our society.
The rally was an opportunity for speakers and attendees to showcase their support of science, research funding, and the need for science in public policy. For a mother-daughter scientist duo, Kim and Jenna, they were marching because they are worried about the current state of science and hope to bring awareness about the importance of scientific facts.
Larry Mutti and his wife, Ginny, traveled from central Pennsylvania to show their support for science. A retired geologist, Dr. Mutti says that “science is an active process.” This active process allows researchers to understand biological phenomenon and contribute to the greater knowledge of how the world works. Asked what science means to him, Dr. Mutti said that “science means investigation, curiosity, [and] following anything and everything that captures your imagination.” Ms. Ginny Mutti hopes that the march “will energize the scientific community to articulate concerns and [discuss] what they do.”
What I enjoyed about the march was that it wasn’t just scientists who were out being a force for science. Children came as astronauts and doctors. Non-scientists showed support for science funding because scientific innovations in biomedical fields have helped save the lives of their loved ones. Toward the end of the march, I encountered a husband and wife duo. The woman was carrying a sign that said, “Thank You Scientists!” Her husband is a scientist, she is not. She said she was thankful for a novel therapy that is helping her fight cancer and keeping her alive.
I completed the march feeling positive about the experience and knowing that there is strong support for science and science funding. I hope that the positive momentum in support for science will continue long after the march.
Holly Vuong, Ph.D., is a Research!America science policy fellow. For more information about the March for Science visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/blog/march-science