04/21/2017

Can Science Survive In A More Politicized Age?

46:45 minutes

This Saturday thousands will join the March for Science in Washington, D.C. in the name of evidence-based decision-making in all levels of government. The planned demonstration, which falls on Earth Day, was inspired by the successful Women’s March that took place this past January, which drew hundreds of thousands to the National Mall and cities across the globe.

This weekend’s protest aims to be equally massive. More than 500 satellite marches have been planned for all over the world, including in all 50 U.S. states. The march’s mission as stated on its website reads:

“Science should neither serve special interests nor be rejected based on personal convictions. At its core, science is a tool for seeking answers. It can and should influence policy and guide our long-term decision-making.”

[What is the March for Science?

The idea that support for science is a bipartisan issue and not a rallying point for the Democratic Party has been a tricky needle to thread, given the current administration’s anti-science policies. In the three months that President Trump has been in office, he has called for a dramatic reduction in federal funding of scientific research and hampered the efforts at various government agencies to combat climate change. At the same time Congress has rolled back important environmental regulations enacted under the Obama administration. These actions have emboldened some members of the scientific community to participate in this Saturday’s public stand in support for science, while others worry that political activism could harm the credibility of scientists.


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It’s clear which side Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) lands on this issue. As a former physicist, he’s the only congressman in the House of Representatives with a Ph.D. in the natural sciences, and he openly encourages other scientists who are considering running for public office. Foster is joined by Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a biologist and co-chair of the March for Science, and Meg Urry, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University, for a discussion about the core issues underpinning this Saturday’s march.

[How will scientific research fare under President Donald Trump?]

Plus, biologist and Californian Michael Eisen talks about his bid for the U.S. Senate. And David Evans, the executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, describes the role that teachers can play in a world where science is increasingly politicized.

Segment Guests

Meg Urry

C. Meg Urry is a professor of astronomy and physics at Yale University, and the past president of the American Astronomical Society. She’s based in New Haven, Connecticut.

Bill Foster

Congressman Bill Foster represents Illinois’ 11th District in the US House of Representatives in Washington, D.C..

Lydia Villa-Komaroff

Lydia Villa-Komaroff is co-chair of the March for Science. She’s Co-founder of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and is based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Michael Eisen

Michael Eisen is an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He’s a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, California.

David Evans

David Evans is the Executive Director of the National Science Teachers Association in Washington, D.C..

Meet the Producers

About Katie Hiler

Katie Hiler is an assistant producer for Science Friday and the proud mother of two cats, Charleigh and Sadie.

About Alexa Lim

Alexa Lim is a producer for Science Friday. Her favorite stories involve space, sound, and strange animal discoveries.

Explore More

What Is The March For Science?

A conversation on Reddit has grown into over 500 satellite marches worldwide.

Read More