March for Science this Saturday in Des Moines

By Megan Tcheng

tchengme@grinnell.edu

Activists from across the state of Iowa will congregate in Des Moines this Saturday, April 22, to participate in the Iowa March for Science. The independently organized march, as one of over 500 protests of its kind, will be held to rally support for science and its vital role in America’s rapidly changing social, global and political climate.

While participants in the March for Science are encouraged to use the event as a platform for their personal beliefs and concerns, the march has been careful not to take a left or right political stance. Rather, the march’s mission statement emphasizes the importance of publicly funded research programs and community engagement. Through their efforts, the voices behind the March for Science hope to inspire legislation reforms that will protect the process of scientific investigation, increase evidence-based policy-making and make science more accessible to the public.

Jordan Shaw, a co-founder and lead organizer of the Iowa March for Science, explained the driving motivation behind the Des Moines march. “We want people to understand that science is not unattainable. It is not something that has to be up on a pedestal that you don’t understand,” Shaw said. “We think science plays a role in our society … [it] just needs to do a better job of being inclusive to all walks of life.”

Planning for the Iowa March for Science began in early February of this year, in the wake of world-wide success of Women’s March. The March for Science arose to gain public support for the sciences, amid US’s shifting presidential administration. Like its precursor, the March for Science began as a smaller-scale protest based in Washington D.C. However, as the event gained momentum, organizers across the country took on the responsibility of establishing march locations in their local neighborhoods and cities.

Scientists, activists and concerned community members from across the state of Iowa joined forces to make the Iowa March for Science possible. Considering Iowa’s diverse social and political background, the march’s organizers worked to echo the objective and non-partisan nature of scientific investigation in their planning process.

“We have been very careful to not come off as partisan,” Shaw said. “Science should take us wherever it takes us. We should follow the facts and we should seek truth. … Science doesn’t care if the result is conservative or liberal and we need to stop trying to shoehorn it into one.”

Participants of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs are encouraged to participate in the four-hour long event, which will consist of an assortment of speakers and interactive teach-in activities, in addition to the march itself. Event speakers will include local scientists, with specialties ranging from water quality analysis to chimpanzee tool implementation. Michelle Miller, a writer and social media activist who supports communication between consumers and farmers, will serve as the march’s keynote speaker.

Grinnell students, professors and community members will join forces with the over 1,200 expected march participants come 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. Professor Joshua Sandquist, biology, summarized the important role the March for Science will play in shaping the future of scientific investigation and understanding.

“This is a march not just for science, but for using data-driven decision making and for using thoughtful approaches to problem solving,” Sandquist said. “As a scientist and as someone who understands the benefits that society gets from science, I feel that science is under attack. We need to stand up in defense of science. … We [are] our own best advocates.”