Boston’s March for Science Is Taking Shape

A pro-facts follow-up to the Women's March is brewing.

boston womens march

Photo by Jamie Ducharme

Update: Organizers of the March for Science in Washington, in Boston, and in cities around the country, have announced that they plan to hold their protests on Saturday, April 22, which is Earth Day.

They have not yet picked a venue for the rally and have begun talks with city officials about obtaining a permit. In the meantime, they have adopted a new mission statement in solidarity with the one produced for the rally D.C.:

The March for Science champions publicly-funded and publicly-communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, non-partisan 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. This group is inclusive of all individuals and types of science!

Earlier: Days after millions hit the streets for Women’s March rallies around the globe, another massive protest countering the message from the White House is gaining momentum. It’s being billed as the March for Science, and Boston is poised to be a leader in its effort to send a pro-science, pro-research, and pro-facts message to Donald Trump.

Plans for a march in Washington have gotten lots of media attention (as well as an endorsement from Bernie Sanders) and the campaign in a few short days has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. By Thursday, February 2, more than 34,000 people said on a Facebook event page that they were interested in attending. For what it’s worth, by the way, the number of people who said they were “interested” in the Women’s March on Facebook was 36,000. An estimated 175,000 showed up.

According to a website for the campaign, established the same day as the Women’s March, its organizers hope to counter efforts to delegitimize climate science and muzzle researchers. It’s a mission they hope will be ongoing, and will involve not just professional scientists, but everyday people:

Although this will start with a march, we hope to use this as a starting point to take a stand for science in politics. Slashing funding and restricting scientists from communicating their findings (from tax-funded research!) with the public is absurd and cannot be allowed to stand as policy. This is a non-partisan issue that reaches far beyond people in the STEM fields and should concern anyone who values empirical research and science.

There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution. Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable. An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.

Given the size of the Women’s March in Boston as well as the sheer number of researchers in Boston colleges and hospitals, it seems likely that a march here would be among the biggest in the country.

The effort to plan for it is already underway at MIT, where a group of activists have been positioning themselves for resistance since the election.

More than 600 faculty and students have signed an open letter, circulated in November, that opposes Trump’s Cabinet picks and calls for support of “fact- and reason-based objective inquiry.” Now, a group of on-campus science advocates are now organizing to keep that conversation going. More than 100 of them traveled to Washington over the weekend to attend the Women’s March, and a few other less-high-profile demonstrations. There’s a website, and they’ve even started using a logo: a raised fist, its fingers spelling “MIT.”

“The words that resonated in my community were Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts,’ which are lies,” says Sarah Schwettmann, an MIT PhD student and one of the college-based group’s chief communicators. “At our best, we as scientists are dedicated to constantly, critically re-evaluating facts we hold to be true, and believe public policy should be informed by the results of this scientific process. Now those in seats of power are claiming license to simply invent truths rooted in motivation to advance particular agendas. Which, at its philosophical foundation, entirely contradicts how we approach the world.”