On Saturday, scientists and their supporters will leave the sanitized comfort of their labs and academic environs to march in Washington and more than 400 other cities and 100 countries around the world. It all started with a tweeted picture of a child holding a pro-science sign at the Jan. 22 March for Women, followed by health educator Caroline Weinberg’s tweet, “Hell hath no fury like a scientist silenced,” and swiftly grew into the largest protest since the women’s event.
It’s a very big, twofold gamble on their part. First, reckoning that the typically apolitical and highly government-dependent scientific community will break with their tradition of political silence in large-enough numbers to create a serious presence, rather than a pathetic disappointment. And second, wagering that the vision of tens of thousands of angry nerds and geeks will have the desired positive impact on policymakers and the public at large. That’s a tough one. While The Big Bang Theory may have enjoyed top TV ratings for the past decade, average Americans are leery of real-life Leonards and Sheldons and their discoveries.
Most of the leading scientific institutions in the United States are backing both propositions and urging their members to hit the streets on Saturday. From the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS, the publisher of Science) to the editorial board of Nature and the New York Academy of Sciences and its counterparts across the country, the admonishment is clear: Get out and march!