Last April, tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts took to the streets in the first March for Science. This year, there will again be marches. But the March for Science has changed – from a volunteer-led protest to a global network of science advocacy groups.
“Even the word March for Science is becoming a little bit anachronistic,” said Jeffrey Mervis, a senior correspondent for the magazine Science*.
In Boston, there will be a rally with speakers and musicians, but many local March for Science chapters won’t be marching, preferring to put their efforts toward other science outreach activities. The national March for Science organization has been active in supporting various petitions, and will host a conference on science communication and advocacy later this year.
Mervis also sees indications of the movement’s maturation in the plans for the March, itself. After facing harsh criticism for lacking transparency and sidelining diversity issues, this year’s national March for Science theme is accountability – both government accountability, and accountability within the science community for issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
And, this year’s march is not on Earth Day, as it was last year. National organizers say they opted to let both events stand on their own this year.
Still, environmental issues are expected to be a major emphasis of many marches, including Boston’s. The Boston event will echo the national theme of accountability, but also feature its own “science strikes back” theme.
“We’ll be looking to not just celebrate these ideas and lift up those ideas,” said lead organizer Craig Altemose, “but to give people very concrete opportunities to put those ideas into action by supporting two specific pieces of climate legislation here in Massachusetts.”
The March for Science has always attempted to walk a fine line between being political and being partisan. Mervis says it’s unclear how much impact March for Science has had on policymakers in Washington, D.C. But there remains widespread concern within the science community about the current administration’s attitudes toward science, about science funding, and about many environmental policies.
“It will be interesting to see whether those issues are enough to bring people out, not just on the fourteenth, but in a sustained way,” said Mervis.
*The American Association for the Advancement of Science publishes the magazine Science and is a major sponsor of the March for Science.