#STEMSaturdays: Differing Opinions on the March For Science

This article was written after the #MarchForScience in 2017.

FemSTEM does not have a political affiliation.

Names in the article may have been redacted by request of those who were interviewed.


March may have ended, but it doesn’t mean that the marches against the newest USA administration will.


The March for Science is slotted for April 22, 2017.  With a long list of partnering organisations (close to 100), the March for Science website boasts, “This incredible show of support and interest […] reflects how important it is to recognize the critical role that science plays in all parts of society, and among different communities […].”


Yet, it’s the lack of diversity (and other reasons discussed below) in this march for science that has put many from participating.


I went to twitter and asked my fellow #womeninSTEM followers (many who retweeted my question) if they were/were not participating in the March for Science and if they felt comfortable giving the reasons why. All quotes will remain anonymous unless specified by said person to respect the person’s privacy.


The Arguments Against the March for Science


“I think it’s a great idea, on the surface,” one personal message said. “I think the majority of scientists—if not all—can agree and have voiced their concern over Donald Trump’s slashing of the EPA, NOAA, and who he has hired to oversee many environmental aspects of the USA. His clear disregard for scientific facts in regards to climate change is alarming. The Trump administration has based many of its ‘facts’ about climate change on conspiracy theories and fantasy.”


So what’s the problem?  “This is a very politically charged event. And science isn’t a political faction.”


This person wasn’t the only one who was worried about the potential consequences of this march in regards to politics. “There’s a notion now that scientists should run for office now. NO! We are  scientists, not politicians. We should be collaborating with those who studied their [butts] off to be politicians, not becoming one with no political/law background.”  Many peers also debated whether scientists should even form a united front against the president, ultimately making the American people choose: science or the person elected as your president?


Others questioned the purpose of the March for Science—what did it hope to accomplish?


“The scientific community uses these marches to sweep its own massive failings under the rug,” said one Twitter user.


If we go to the <a href="http://www.marchforscience.com">March for Science website</a>, the mission statement says that this march, “champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”


“Kind of bland, no? An overall blanket statement that says ‘it’s not about scientists or politicians’ but it very much is. Just look at its Twitter feed!”  said another member, who wished to be identified as Julie.



And it’s with the March for Science Twitter page that many felt problems with.

Numerous commentators felt that the March for Science was <i>not </i>diverse at all—that, in fact, it sometimes wrote prominent women and POC out of the narrative.


“One notable problem was a tweet celebrated that American biologist James Watson and English physicist Francis Crick discovered DNA in the 1950s. The outrage was that they didn’t mention Rosalind Franklin who was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of DNA.



Many women called the March for Science twitter page out on this, with no response from the moderator until a male scientist spoke up. It was only then that another tweet was made: this time all about Rosalind Franklin and how her contributions were not forgotten but that the tweet character limit had been reached. Again, many pointed out how others had been able to fit both her and Watson and Crick’s discovery all into one tweet. It was absolute bull.”



Others had problems with the March for entirely unique and personal reasons.


“I have major misgivings about the Science March, for two main reasons,” said one respondent. “The first reason is that scientists who spent the entire Obama administration engaging in reprehensible behaviour (e.g., enabling sexual assailants) are now shouting, ‘Science! Diversity! Respect!’


"There are many scientists who are just as bad as Trump, but who will never get called out for their behaviour because they’re simply not famous enough. These people can now sanitize their public image by claiming to be outraged […].


"The second reason is that […] here’s a community that claims to pride itself on objectivity, critical thinking, and self -awareness, whose hypocrisy is now excused by the need to fight Trump.”


The Arguments For the March for Science


What began as just an idea on Reddit has exploded into a full-blown and divisive movement. And while some are choosing not to attend any of the marches worldwide due to scheduling conflicts, they have other things planned, or many are already attending Earth Day (April 22) events, many others are choosing to attend.


“I’m going to use my first amendment right to protest a president and congress that are hostile to science, especially climate change. And how fitting is it that it’s on Earth Day?”


Another argued, “It’s a well-intentioned march for science. Those who say science isn’t political are absolutely crazy. It’s our job as scientists to research and tell the public the truth—now we have an administration who wants to gag the truth. We must defend the truth. You just can’t be this ignorant in 2017!”


Many were going to give a different face to the word ‘scientist’ besides a ‘stuffy old man in a lab coat.’


“I’m participating so those in my inner circle and those around the world can see that scientists are more than just that—we’re humans, too.” Others said that they viewed this as a way to stand up for science, research, and open access data. “This is a march about science, not just scientists and a political agenda. And we must defend science. I’ll be bringing a few interested non-science friends so that will be a cool learning experience.”


Whatever way you choose to speak up for science, we hope you do it safely. For those attending the March of Science, stay safe, and be kind to others -- even to those who have opposing views.


The world is watching and listening.


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here