In Washington and cities around the country last weekend, events labeled 'The March for Science' should have been labeled 'The March Against Trump'. Few Republicans were invited and marchers carried signs that urged "Resist, and other anti-Trump slogans. One bizarre sign even mocked Ivanka Trump for promoting women in science. Promoting women in science is now an evil act?
In Los Angeles, one protester called for an end to the Trump-Pence "regime." At the Seattle satellite march the headline speakers were both hyper-partisan Democrats: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and local Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
Last year, the March for Science was almost entirely about politics – or as one writer noted, "a primal scream" against President Trump.
After receiving much criticism for being scientifically shallow, callow, and blatantly partisan last year, this year's March for Science was supposed to be more sophisticated.
Despite the fact that the march's website correctly says that "science does not belong to any political party," Democrats usurped control of marches around the nation.
In fact, according to the Seattle Times, marches weren't just about science – they included totally unrelated issues such as indigenous rights and national politics. Congresswoman Jayapal called EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt "a corrupt, greedy Cabinet secretary" who should be fired. She also declared: "Science is what allows us to all be better off."
That latter statement is certainly true, but Jayapal seems strangely hesitant to answer any questions about it. One of us (Dr. Berezow) is her constituent and submitted a request to her office, inquiring about her position on issues ranging from mandatory vaccination and alternative medicine to genetic engineering and nuclear power. It went unanswered.
Jayapal's dedication to science apparently does not extend to answering questions about scientific issues from actual scientists living in her district.
Partisanship aside, do the marchers actually have a point? One headline in Wired read: "As Scientists March, Federal Researchers Weather Trump Storm."
Is it true that President Trump and congressional Republicans are at war with science? If they are, they have a funny way of showing it. In Washington, nothing speaks as loudly as money. And the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Trump last month contained massive increases in government funding for scientific research – the largest in a decade.
- As reported in the journalScience, the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was boosted to $37 billion – an 8.3 percent increase.
- The National Science Foundation received an extra $295 million – a 3.9 percent increase.
- The Department of Energy got an additional $868 million – a whopping increase of 15 percent.
- NASA's budget was upped to $6.2 billion – a 7.9 percent increase.
The budget agreement even contains language enabling agencies tomove forward with research on the causes of gun violence, a cause the March for Science leaders actually agree with, and one they lobby for on their website.
So instead of grumbling, the folks at the March for Science should have been celebrating. But there was very little of that, despite the fact that the massive increases in the federal science budget were far beyond the most optimistic wish list that any science advocate could have hoped for.
Additionally, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently made a change to his department's policy that will make it easier to bring biotechnological products to the market.
It's clear that the March for Science was just a partisan publicity stunt designed to bash the GOP and President Trump. In the long run, that will undermine science. If Republicans believe that scientists and other self-described science advocates are just a partisan wolf in sheep's clothing, Republicans will ignore them.
When science is politicized, everybody loses. For that reason, the March for Science deserves to be denounced or simply ignored.
Alex Berezow, a Ph.D. microbiologist, is senior fellow of biomedical science at the American Council on Science and Health and was the founding editor of RealClearScience.
Henry I. Miller, a physician, molecular biologist and former flu virus researcher, is the Robert Wesson fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology. Twitter: @henryimiller