Several University of Michigan scientists plan to join the March for Science in Washington, D.C., April 22. Others decided not to participate, and one U-M team will be there to conduct a research study, according to a Michigan News experts advisory.
Several researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology are included in the advisory, excerpted below. Meghan Duffy, a disease ecologist and associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is one of the invited speakers for the main stage in Washington D.C.
Duffy’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases, especially in aquatic ecosystems. She was recently selected as a 2017-18 Public Engagement Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and will be one of the main-stage speakers at the April 22 March for Science in Washington.
"We need to advocate for science and make the case for how it benefits society generally," Duffy said. "I come from a family of nurses and firemen and linemen and transit workers. If we don't reach out to people like them to talk about what we do and why it is important, they won't reach out to their representatives to support science funding and to call for evidence-based policies. I strongly disagree with the idea that, by reaching out to the public to talk about my work and to talk about how science affects their everyday lives, I am somehow not able to be objective in my science."
Duffy said she hopes the March for Science encourages the general public to think more about how society benefits when there's strong support for science and to realize that investing in science makes a lot of sense economically.
"Science creates jobs, leads to incredible innovations and informs policies that make us all safer," said Duffy, who also hopes the march encourages scientists to examine the climate within science, and to think carefully about the changes that need to be made in order to recruit and retain a diverse pool of scientists.
John Vandermeer is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He will be marching in Washington, D.C., with his wife, U-M ecologist Ivette Perfecto, a professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment.
"My participation is to protest the Trump administration's anti-science stance," Vandermeer said. "Our world today is especially in need of rational thought to solve the urgent problems we face, and the most troubling challenge to the rational thought processes that we have relied upon since the Enlightenment is the apparent rejection of science by the Trump administration. I stand with the bulk of the world's scientists in opposing this sort of dangerous and ignorant policy."
Many life decisions are influenced by a whirlwind of political forces, and science is no different, he said. From a practical point of view, being apolitical "simply cedes the debate to dark forces," he said.
"It is ultimately a strong political statement to suggest that objective truth seeking is somehow a nonpolitical act, especially today with the members of the Trump administration making decisions that threaten both our fellow humans and the planet," Vandermeer said. "I will march for science and, yes, I know it is a political act."
Giorgia Auteri is a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Though she will not march in Washington, Auteri will be there next week for the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition's annual BESC Congressional Visits Day, when scientists meet with their members of Congress to discuss their concerns. She will attend the event as a Science Policy Fellow of the American Society of Mammalogists.
"Though I'm not participating in the march specifically, I see this as a week of scientists taking action in D.C., and I think the march will pave the way for future efforts by showing how many people support science," she said. "There is a danger that the march will generate a sense of accomplishment that diminishes the likelihood of supporters taking follow-up actions. We need to capitalize on the momentum that the March for Science will generate, and that's why I'll be meeting with legislators and staff members shortly after. I would encourage everyone in the scientific community to take action during this time, for example by contacting local representatives or volunteering in science outreach efforts."
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