April 22 was a cool and wet Earth Day in Washington, D.C., and it would have been easy to stay away, but certain truths are no longer self-evident to some in government. Therefore, I heard the call to stand up and march for science.
As a scientist, I of course have been concerned by the recent censoring of scientific data from some government websites, gag rules on scientists and the proposed science slashes by the Office of Management & Budget, but what really convinced me to participate was when the scientific groups to which I belong (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma Xi, and the American Chemical Society) joined the march. I knew then that this march would be a well-planned, non-partisan event with serious people and a clear focus, to support scientific research and protest anti-science policies.
Scientists are frequently poor communicators, so now is a good time to remind ourselves that major science and technology advancements don't just happen, they frequently start with government-funded basic research that can lead to technology for all: antibiotics and vaccines (NIH), weather satellites and models (NOAA), clean water and air (EPA), the internet and GPS (DARPA) and many more. And when we ignore science, we get situations like the lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, Mich.
Science remains the best process for seeking truth about our physical world and avoiding fooling ourselves.
Thinking back on the march, it is hard to believe we need to demonstrate for truth, facts and science, but we cannot take anything for granted today.
As MIT President L. Rafael Reif said, “America's strength in science and engineering is central to America's strength, period. It's how we keep the nation safe, drive innovation, build infrastructure, power and connect our modern society, restore the environment, create new industries, feed our people, heal the sick — and understand the universe.”
Let's remind our government to get the budget priorities correct for all of us.
Bruce Frye, Ph.D., resides in Bethany Beach and has served on the Bethany Beach Town Council since 2014.