The global grassroots movement has evolved from having a million people take to the streets in 2017 in more than 450 cities to year-round advocacy for science and for evidence-based policies by government officials. But 14 April is still the big event for many local groups.
Below are some of the highlights from events around the world, including the flagship rally in Washington, D.C.
At todayâ€™s march and rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the flagship event of the dayâ€™s global series of rallies, the crowd that gathered under sunny skies was considerably smaller than at the inaugural March for Science a year ago, when attendees packed the same space, a wide expanse near the Washington Monument, in the rain.
â€śItâ€™s disappointing to see so few peopleâ€ť at the rally, said John Cosgrove, a retired high school science teacher who traveled from Easton, Pennsylvania, to attend, as he did last year. â€śItâ€™s waned a little bit, but the energy is still there.â€ť
Science organizations that partnered with todayâ€™s March, among them AAAS (the publisher of Science), aimed to promote a nonpartisan message of support for science and its use in public policy. That message was echoed by todayâ€™s speakers, whoÂ included internet pioneer Vinton Cerf; public health expert Susan Sorenson of the University of Pennsylvania, who spoke about the need for research on gun violence; and David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University in College Park and former chief oceanographer of the U.S. Navy. Titley led a Navy review of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, and said that when it comes to climate, â€śUltimately the facts on the ground and the evidence win.â€ť
But national politics and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump were very much on the minds of many in the crowd.
â€śSince Trump got into office, Scott Pruitt [administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] has been rolling back environmental regulations,â€ť said Dianne Holland, who lives in northern Virginia and whose husband works for a government science agency. She attended last yearâ€™s March for Science, and since then, â€śI think whatâ€™s been happening with the administration has gotten worse. But I think the activism for science has improved.â€ť
For example, she said, attending last yearâ€™s rally helped encourage her to work in her state to support petitions to ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. â€śI am more aware of the details of whatâ€™s happening than a year ago.â€ť
Cosgrove, who carried a sign reading â€śScience: a candle in the darkâ€ťâ€”an homage to aÂ Carl Sagan book by that name â€”said he worries about efforts in states to remove the science of climate change from school textbooks. He also fears the Trump administration is ignoring science in decisions such as withdrawing the United States from the Paris accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Jenny Kolber, an 11-year-old from Point Pleasant, New Jersey, carried a sign that said: â€śI canâ€™t believe Iâ€™m marching to save reality.â€ť She was supposed to attend school today, in a make-up session for a series of winter snow days. But she and her mom drove to Washington, D.C., for the march instead because science is her favorite subject and sheâ€™s concerned that scientific facts are being denied. â€śI love school, but Iâ€™d come here every day.â€ť After a brief pause, she added: â€śIf my parents let me.â€ť
Children also took center stage at the podium. Max Schill, a 9-year-old from Williamstown, New Jersey, who has a genetic condition called Noonan syndrome, spoke about the need for more funding to fight rare diseases. Research to find cures can cost billions, he said, and he doesnâ€™t have that kind of money in his â€śbig blue piggy bank.â€ť
After the speeches, several hundred marchers walked along Constitution Avenue from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol, led by organizers carrying the same â€śMarch For Scienceâ€ť banner as last year. The march route was packed with onlookersâ€”mostly there to see the cherry blossoms, visit museums, and otherwise enjoy the nice weatherâ€”and many stopped to watch the marchers pass by. Outside the National Gallery of Art, one man took photos and shouted â€śScience is cool! Go science!â€ť Nearby, a woman asked her companions: â€śCan we get in?â€ť â€”â€‹Katie Langin and Jeffrey Brainard
â€” Teodora Pavkovic (@PsycoachTP) April 14, 2018
â€” JJP (@phelanjj2) April 14, 2018
Good to see all the support at the March for Science today pic.twitter.com/xGOuXvYhq7
â€” Steph S. (@StephSEcologist) April 14, 2018
â€” MarchForScienceIA (@ScienceMarchIA) April 14, 2018
â€” AWI Medien (@AWI_de) April 14, 2018
â€” Ongu Isaac (@onguisaac) April 12, 2018
â€” Ongu Isaac (@onguisaac) April 14, 2018
No massive crowds at the BrandenburgÂ Gate this year; the organizers of last yearâ€™sÂ March for Science in Berlinâ€”which drew more than 10,000 people andÂ ended in a stirring songÂ about freedom of thoughtâ€”had instead invited scientists to meet with neighbors and other interested people in bars and cafes, an initiative named Kieznerds (â€śneighborhood nerds.â€ť) After the 2017 success, another march might have become a â€śpoor copyâ€ť that might even hurt the cause, says co-organizer Susann Morgner. So she and her colleagues asked Berlinâ€™s watering holes whetherÂ they would play host to scientists.
Some two dozen venues joined in, hosting talks about chemical experiments, animal communication, and viruses. One of them was La Tazza, a cafe in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg district whose owner, Delia Lemke, happens to be a professional science communicator. Some 10 guests sat at a long table for a discussion about â€śthe importance of trust in modern times,â€ť led by communication researcher Stefanie Molthagen-SchnĂ¶ring of the University of Applied Sciences for Engineering and Economics in Berlin. (She and her husband have held similar debates at their home the past 3 years.)
To kick off the discussion, Molthagen-SchnĂ¶ring cited alarming studies showing the diminished public trust in traditional media. She mentioned the work of German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, who has argued that trust reduces complexity. AlthoughÂ trust between individuals or within organizations is a well-researched topic, trust within the public sphere deserves more study, Molthagen-SchnĂ¶ring said.
The group discussed several questions, including how trust can be re-established in the Middle East as a precondition for peace talks. A student in regional management wondered how trust can be reactivated after it has eroded; a futurologist explained the limits to his predictions, which made him more trustworthy, a teacher who also took part in the discussion said. A participant working in science communication argued that researchers and scientific press officers should be clear about limitations and mistakes in science in order to build trust.
Kieznerds organizers had hoped that a considerable part of the audience would beÂ nonacademic. But although the group in La Tazza included an artist and an au pair from China, the majority had links to science. The problem may just be that Prenzlauer Berg is home to many young academics, Lemke says. On Tuesday, Molthagen-SchnĂ¶ring will lead a discussion in a low-income neighborhood with run-down highrise buildings where she might find more Berliners who have no connection to science. â€”Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup
A small but enthusiastic group of about 80 people turned up today for the March for Science in London, a far cry from the estimated 10,000 last year. As the sun shone and several members of the crowd stripped down to T-shirts for perhaps the first time this year, one attendee wondered whether people had been mistakenly put off by the recent spate of stormy weather. Organizer Jillian Sequeira, a conflict studies student at the London School of Economics, had another take. Since last year â€śthe world hasnâ€™t fallen apart,â€ť she said, and the feeling of urgency that characterized the previous march has dissipated.
But that doesnâ€™t mean the issues have gone away, Sequeira said. â€śEven though there are fewer people, the message is just as important as before,â€ť said rally participant Toby Olsen, who was visiting from Rhode Island. â€śThereâ€™s not really an excuse for being quiet.â€ť
Those present had a variety of reasons for attending. Guy Pearce, runs the Worthing and Hove branch of Skeptics in the Pub, said that he was concerned that science funding was not a priority for the government. â€śScience works,â€ť said another attendee, Duncan Rasor. â€śWhen somebody undermines that â€¦ we need to show support.â€ť A common motivation was concern about the impact of recent policy decisions, particularly in the United States. Emma Fernandes, a visiting environmental science student also from Rhode Island, said that she was there to protest the Trump administrationâ€™s roll-back of environmental protections.
She was in the right crowd. The list of speakers this year was dominated by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth, climate researchers, and self-proclaimed activists, so climate change was inevitably high on the agenda. â€śScience must play a central role in the pursuit of climate justice,â€ť said speakerÂ Rupert Stuart-Smith of the UK Youth Climate Coalition. Sequeira said this focus was intentional: WhereasÂ last yearâ€™s talks were mainly given by people from research institutes, this year she wanted to connect people with local organizations that they could get involved withâ€”and most of those were groups involved in climate work.
There was no actual marching this year, but the 2-hour rally took place just across the road from Downing Street, the crowd mirroring the cluster of tourists hoping to get a glance at Prime Minister Theresa May. And given the focus of the dayâ€™s talks, the location seemed appropriate. Dorothy Guerrero of advocacy group Global Justice Now summed it up: â€śScience is political.â€ť â€”â€‹Matt Warren
Last year, Indian scientists and science supporters didn’t march on 22 April, the day rallies were held in Washington, D.C., and around the globe, but more than 3Â months later, on 9 August 2017. This year, they took to the streets on the same day as the rest of the world. Marchers in New Delhi, pictured below, demanded that India’s investment in research and development increase to 3% of gross domestic product and asked for better science education and an end to unscientific thinking.
“For me the march is an opportunity to reach out to both members of theÂ society as well as policymakers, to impress upon them the need to strengthen our scientific base,â€ťÂ says Soumitro Banerjee of the Indian Institute of Science and Research in Kolkata, who participated in the New Delhi march. Debabrata Ghosh, a professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, had a wider audience in mind as well: “I attended the March in Delhi to keep alive the tradition of asking critical questions and to bridge the gap between scientists and nonscientists,â€ť he says.
Last year, signmaking parties were a popular pastime in the days before the March for Science. This year, a bevy of websites have put up stories aimed at giving marchers who might be at a loss for words (and pictures) aÂ few ideas for their placards. A sampling:
At Thrillist, Joe McGauley offers “Funny, powerful, and clever poster ideas for the science march this weekend.” “[It]’s always a bit tough to figure out how best to get a message across in a sea of signs and chants,â€ť he writes.
Don Duggan-Haas of the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, New York, offers a few sign tips on the website of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. â€śIf science saved your life, or the life of a loved one, say it,â€ť he writes. Then, you can â€śuse the other side of your sign for your geoscience message.â€ť
The website a plus has “13 awesome signs to inspire you before the march for science this weekend.”Â
And in case you missed it last year, STAT had “The 31 best signs people took to the March for Science.” And Bustle had “30 funny March for Science sign ideas.“
On Twitter, some folks say they are having a hard time deciding on their message:
Brainstorming for tomorrowâ€™s #MarchForScience and I think I have hit a wall (and canâ€™t find the rest of the markers.)
â€” Heidi (@heidyhoho) April 14, 2018
Hours away from the beginning of the March for Science here in the eastern United States, the marching got started elsewhere around the globe. In Australia, events are planned for at least eight cities.
â€” Lisa A. Williams (@williamslisaphd) April 14, 2018
â€” GB-WildLyf (@MistressGeorge) April 14, 2018
March for Science in Townsville. So inspiring! #ScienceMarchTSV #ScienceMarchAu #ScienceNotSilence #KeepMarching #MarchForScience @RACI_HQ @RACI_Inorganic @RACIQld #ozchem @jcu @peterjunk2 pic.twitter.com/zB5Tz3I0hl
â€” Vicki Junk (@VickiJunk) April 14, 2018
â€” Fiona Caldarevic (@FionaMagic) April 14, 2018
â€” Ken Silburn (@KenSilburn) April 14, 2018
One person preparing for todayâ€™s event is Margaret Breslau, who last year helped lead a March for Science in Blacksburg, Virginia, that attracted more than 900 people. This year, sheâ€™s not sure how many people might show up, and she expects the tone of the march to be different. Instead of focusing on science â€świth a big S,â€ť she says, she expects speakers and marchers to focus more on how the work scientists do affects social issues. Speakers, for example, plan to read statements from incarcerated people about the environmental and health conditions in prisons. Thereâ€™s also likely to be discussion about a controversial local pipeline project and climate change.
â€śFor me, itâ€™s not just speaking out against the people and administrations denying science and defunding science and discrediting science,â€ť says Breslau, who chairs Blacksburgâ€™s Coalition for Social Justice. â€śI also want people to know that people are impacted every day by science, for better or worse. Science has incredible power. I think a lot of scientists probably do factor this in, but there has to be a human good.â€ť
She credits March for Science organizers with maintaining communications since last yearâ€™s event. â€śTheyâ€™ve been very good about it,â€ť she says. â€śI found theyâ€™ve stayed engaged, and thatâ€™s really important. You have a lot of power in your hands when you do a national march, and keeping the energy up and the education is hard. I just canâ€™t imagine. Theyâ€™ve kept me engaged.â€ť
And she doesnâ€™t see this yearâ€™s march as the end of her engagement. â€śWe have to keep building on what happens,â€ť Breslau says. â€śAs long as scientists are being silenced and cuts to education and programs [are happening] â€¦ you just have to keep going, thatâ€™s all.â€ť â€”â€‹Catherine Matacic
Large and small, events are underway around the globe. Click here to see a map of all the scheduled March for Science events. Twitter is a good place to see what’s happening on the ground:
â€” Nassib Mugwanya (@nmugwanya) April 14, 2018
â€” Agham Youth UPManila (@aghamyouth_upm) April 23, 2017
It is amazing how UKZN staff, students and various stakeholders have come in numbers to support the March for Science which starts at Durban City Hall. pic.twitter.com/alpN4EDOMI
â€” University of KZN (@UKZN) April 14, 2018