March for Science shows importance of scientific advancement

Madeline Kim Apr 23, 2017
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President Donald Trump’s plans have not been made without opposition. One of his controversial moves involves his budget plan. This new budget cuts funding for science research and ultimately shifts our research priorities away from environmental and climate programs. Programs, including but not limited to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), find themselves having to conduct cutting-edge research with far less funds than ever before.

Trump is not known as the most environmentally-conscientious politician to enter the scene. In 2012, Trump used his Twitter to publicly announce “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Although he denies tweeting this now, it is clear that he continues to deny the importance of funding scientific research. The Trump administration plans on rolling back the Clean Water Rule, which currently protects streams and wetlands, thus negatively impacting public health, communities, and the economy, in the name of "promoting economic growth." Scott Pruitt, Trump's EPA Chief, rejects carbon dioxide's impact on climate change.

The science community, as well as many other allies, congregated all over the world on April 22 to show the exigence for science funding. Thousands marched in the main march held in Washington D.C., and thousands more marched here in Pittsburgh. This sister march began near the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.

The focus of the chants mainly circulated around climate change; the protesters could be heard cheering “climate justice cannot wait.” Posters criticized the Trump administration in various ways. Some posters parodied Trump and some of his iconic quotes; one poster read “grab ‘em by the data,” and another read “make America think again.” Others displayed posters that parodied the administration; one stated “there is no alternative to facts.”

Some protesters expressed near disbelief in the need for a march for science; one poster identified a Ph.D. student who “should be writing my thesis ... but instead I have to tell our president that science is real,” and a few other protesters held posters stating they “can’t believe I have to march for this.” Many marchers, furthermore, used their posters to criticize the administration's erasure of the existence of climate change, which led the mantra "science, not silence" to emerge.

Guest speakers included researchers affiliated with Chatham University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. Although each speaker presented the urgency and need for funding in the sciences, each approached in unique angles.

Dr. Judy Yanowitz of Magee-Womens Research Institute testified the importance of funding when it came to groundbreaking research in epigenetics and discoveries in meiosis. Andrew Norman, philosophy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, took a more humanistic approach by calling the audience to think more critically about reason and science.

Robert Coulter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, shared how a lack of funding for the sciences is a disservice to the LGBTQ community in his speech. The lack of funding, Coulter argued, limits the bounds for scientific research and thus does not permit important health studies to expand very far.

Science is responsible for our innovations and technologies. Without it, society as a whole would not exist. Generations have seen the impact of science: over the years, life expectancy has increased significantly, and child mortality rates are at an all-time low.

However, this is just the beginning. With the proper funding and resources, today’s scientists may be able to make breakthroughs that innovate this country and ultimately this world. Perhaps these findings will allow America to be a more environmentally sustainable country, or maybe the clinical studies will lead us closer to a cure for cancer. However, if we cut funding, we tragically reduce the chance to give our country the opportunity to push the boundaries of status quo and thus we cannot make America great again.