Future of Research partners with March for Science

Future of Research partners with March for Science

Future of Research (FoR) is pleased to announce that we are officially partnering with March for Science, the organization driving marches for science at hundreds of locations around the world on April 22.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to being officially partnered with the main organization and the march in DC, so far we are also currently partnered with the satellite March for Science – Minnesota.

 

 

 

We encourage our followers to get involved with local marches, and hope to help with local events including hosting some activities in coordination with others involved with the march.

 

You can read more about the mission of March for Science here, and about their principles and goals here.

 

If you want to get involved with us and the marches, please feel free to reach out to Gary McDowell at info[at]futureofresearch.org – we have board members in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC and New York and are happy to try to coordinate with you at these and other locations if we can.

 

A statement from the Executive Director:

FoR is passionate about a number of the issues the March for Science is looking to address, including how a more diverse scientific enterprise can benefit science and society. As a group that tries firmly to base policy recommendations in evidence, and pass data and evidence openly to junior researchers about the scientific system itself, we are concerned with the evidence being dismissed by those across the political spectrum, and also within science itself.

 

Science is political, and a march for science is also political. Marching is a political action; it can be non-partisan (rejection of evidence is apparent across the political spectrum in our society, in debates about genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), vaccines, and climate change for example) but the decisions that are made about what science is funded and how and where and who gets to carry out that science are all affected by political decisions, directly or indirectly. There are claims that science is apolitical, but these claims are simply incorrect, and sometimes come with a rejection, by scientists, of evidence from other scientists about the scientific system itself.

 

In our work advocating for policy changes, we find that evidence about the scientific system is sometimes rejected by scientists themselves, because of a perception of what science is, and sometimes because of rejection of entire fields such as the social sciences. Dismissal (or acceptance) of evidence based purely on its origin, and not on assessment of the evidence, is one of the factors leading many of us to march for science in the first place. This is an opportunity to reflect on ourselves as scientists to ensure that we are not allowing the same biases and prejudices to obstruct evidence-based policy decisions about our own system. I face the rejection of evidence, or assertion of assumptions about the scientific enterprise based on no evidence, constantly in my work for FoR. It is a major driver in why we expend so much effort on data collection and analysis.

 

One of the realms in which this rejection of evidence occurs (or a claim that science is somehow immune from such problems) is the subject of diversity and inclusion. This is despite a wealth of evidence that certain groups are advantaged, and others disadvantaged, by our current system, all of which is influenced by political decisions; and evidence that a diversity of experiences and backgrounds actually enriches science itself (see the NIH’s resource of evidence here). We therefore are strongly committed to marching for under-represented groups in science, and the communities in which they exist who may be under threat from various policy decisions. Science does not occur in a vacuum, and scientists are not somehow protected from the effects certain policies can have on them, and the communities in which they exist, merely by being in a laboratory. I myself am an immigrant, and my ability to stay and work in this country was determined by the Supreme Court, not by my science. Current immigration policies are having a clear effect on science and the communities in which scientists live. I therefore simply cannot agree with those who claim science is apolitical.

 

One of the areas to draw most criticism about the discussion surrounding the March for Science is the ability to communicate with – not only talking to, but listening to – scientists from under-represented communities and those who have worked in this realm for a long time, whose voices may continue to be marginalized.  I would recommend reading the work discussed and further referrals on the #marginsci hashtag on Twitter by the many leaders in this field, to whom I am personally very grateful for the education they have provided me.

 

Personally, I disagree with the idea that all scientists should be doing all things (advocacy, communication, research, teaching etc.) all at once, rather than training, and appropriately recognizing, those who wish to work on individual components. It is inefficient; and not everyone wants to do everything. The activity around the March for Science, particularly with respect to listening to marginalized communities, has been a good example of how enthusiasm is not sufficient.

 

FoR has been concerned with the incentives in the scientific training, and training for junior scientists. An absence of robust training for advocacy and communication can lead to more problems, and raw enthusiasm needs to provided with a proper support network for the participation of scientists in advocacy. It also requires recognition by the academic community. How will the scientists carrying out advocacy work be rewarded and recognized by academia, and the scientists they are assisting who instead remain in their labs? Should academia not reward those who are good at this work, and recognize those contributions as inherently necessary for science to thrive, in the way publications and grant funding currently are?

 

I hope that the March for Science can provide a case study for how far enthusiasm to advocate for science can take us, and how the effort was affected by the availability of training, and lack of recognition for those carrying out this work already, to educate us going forward. These are issues that I feel must be discussed to avoid simple basic errors that organizations, including our own, may make when there is enthusiasm for change, but a lack of awareness about the field. Many junior scientists begin their work reviewing the literature before carrying out research work; there is no reason why this research and training should not also be the case for issues surrounding science done beyond the bench.

 

I look forward to working with March for Science not only on the marches themselves, but also in hearing what the community wants and needs from us. At FoR we have the vision of a well-connected scientific enterprise, with advocates, communicators, teachers and all kinds of scientists connected to improve science and society, not just an academic enterprise. We hope that these marches can lead to a step in this direction and that we can help to support the organization and junior scientists who get involved however we can.

 

I will see you in Washington DC!

 

Gary McDowell

 

 

 

 

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