The first March for Science drew hundreds of thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts to events around the world. Some estimates put the total number of participants worldwide at one million.
It was the spring of 2017, and there was a sense that science was under attack from the new Trump administration. Organizers said they were building a movement that was bigger than party politics and that there would be many more marches to come.
But last year, attendance was down. And this year, there wasn’t even a march in D.C. Only a few thousand people showed up for the newly designated flagship event in New York City.
All this raises the question of whether the March for Science is done. And, if so, what went wrong?
“I think that the most important accomplishment of the March for Science was the dialogue that it sparked around the role of scientists and policy and the resulting cultural shift that put into motion,” Rebecca Fuoco told Living Lab Radio.
Fuoco was a March for Science organizer in Los Angeles and recently wrote in Undark Magazine that the march may have fizzled, but it didn’t fail.
“I think people came away from it understanding that scientists can be political without being partisan, and that it's a good thing for scientists to care about how science gets used,” she said.
Yes, there is disappointment among some scientists that crowds failed to gather like they did in 2017, Fuoco said. But crowds of protestors are not the end goal.
“Marching is a great step one. But then there's writing op-eds and letters to the editor, participating in government science advisory panels, submitting public comments on agency proposals, contacting government officials,” she said. “Activism just has so many different shapes and forms.”
She doesn’t know if there will be a March for Science next year, and perhaps there shouldn’t be one.
“I think the march for science was a rallying point, and as a result, there is a whole crop of science advocates who are working to bridge the gap between science and policy in all sorts of ways that are hard to measure,” she said.