Let Science Be Great Again

Michaela Barton on how the scientific fact isn’t alternative enough for Trump.

Following the news of proposed mass US budget cuts for science, over 600 protesting marches were organised around the world. Sparked by US-based researchers Caroline Weinberg, Valorie Aquino and Jonathan Berman, the idea of a march that “champions and defends science and scientific integrity” soon spread, with hundreds of thousands of supporters taking to the street. Scotland’s march was held in Edinburgh, 22nd April, attended by over 2,000 people.

Marchers highlighted a dangerous present and future for science. With climate change being labelled a hoax and anti-vaxxer Robert. Kennedy Jr. reportedly approached for vaccine commissioner, Trump has proved his ignorance for decades of significant peer-reviewed research. The USA budget proposal for 2018 showed a 31% decrease in funds for Environmental Protection Agency and a 18% cut for National Institute of Health, with the future of some departments left unclear.

The USA government is not alone in trying to silence science out of fear of the displeasing scientific facts.  In the UK, gagging laws were legalised in 2016, banning groups in receipt of public money from lobbying in parliament. Though not directly aimed at scientists, this law would have prevented researchers speaking up against harmful policies that could impact environmental protection or health procedure. Due to the huge backlash, this policy U-turned days before initiation, exempting scientific researchers. Canada had a similar issue, including a 2006 law stifling free communication between researchers and the media, and a 2012 bill approving drastic cuts of the funds. The situation improved only recently, after years of criticism from Canadian scientists and a change of government.

Slashing of funds and continual threat of gagging by governmental bodies has left researchers, as well as the general public, in fear for the future of scientific fact. The current political climate demonstrates a rejection of fact, instead going for the more sophisticated approach of stuffing fingers in ears and shouting till the bad news goes away. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. Mass pollution is still real. Easily preventable disease still spreads through unvaccinated populations. Icebergs still melt at an unprecedented rate. Under-budgeting humanity’s best tool will do nothing but make things worse.

[Michaela Barton – @lowkeypigeon]  

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