I’m no scientist. But in 2017 I organized a March for Science in Princeton.
Something had struck a chord in the early weeks of the Trump administration — as publicly funded climate data disappeared from federal websites, references to human-caused climate change were redacted, and double-digit cuts were proposed to every agency charged with doing science. This trespass went beyond a mere policy difference. It was like the ground rules for how we as a society discover knowledge were being tossed aside.
Moreover, it felt like an attack on Princeton, home to two major research institutions, as well as private laboratories all along the U.S. 1 corridor. Science is woven through the cultural and financial fabric of our community.
And so we marched. What was initially planned as a scrappy local march ended up drawing 2,500 people to support science, in solidarity with the more than 1 million people who marched in Washington, D.C. and around the world that same day. It was the largest science advocacy demonstration in history.
And yet, the insidious erosion of science persists. Just in 2018 Columbia Law School’s Silencing Science Tracker counts more than 20 instances of the federal government disregarding science, including hindering research, censorship, misrepresentation of data, and even suspending its own science advisors.
We need to keep marching to show that science still matters. It is fundamental to understanding nearly every issue we care about — from the environment to medicine, from public safety to new technologies.
And so I’m helping to organize another march — this time a statewide New Jersey March for Science on Saturday, April 14, at the steps of the Trenton War Memorial. We will advocate for science and also celebrate it with a science education festival for all ages, with panel discussions on climate change and gun violence, hands-on activities for kids, music, and more.
New Jersey has more scientists and engineers per square mile than any other place in the world. Modern paleontology started in Haddonfield in 1858 with the discovery of the first nearly complete dinosaur skeleton. Streptomycin, the first antibiotic to kill the tuberculosis bacteria, was literally drawn from New Jersey soil. Edison invented the phonograph and incandescent light at Menlo Park, and Einstein found a refuge in Princeton.
That was our past. To have a science future, we must advocate for robust funding of research — even the inconvenient kinds. To maintain our thriving scientific community scientists must be allowed to communicate their findings, and that includes moving freely across borders to collaborate with others, or recruiting the brightest students and colleagues from all parts of the world. And, finally, we need to change the way that policy is made by demanding that lawmakers use the best scientific evidence available to address our greatest challenges, whether protecting the Jersey shore or keeping schools safe.
We in New Jersey are leaders of science. I hope you’ll march with me to keep it that way.
Nicole Pezold Hancock
For information: www.njmarchforscience.com