The March for Science, a public demonstration in support of science, emerged from a Reddit conversation about cuts to science funding and the threat to evidence-based policies, in the current political climate of the United States.

The main March for Science will take place in Washington DC on Saturday, April 22 (Earth Day), with over 500 satellite marches occurring around the world, including in India. It will be accompanied by a rally with several high-profile speakers, as well as a teach-in event for community engagement. This is the first-ever mobilisation of and for the science community at this scale: a march which aspires to grow into a movement. The march aims to foster open communication between the scientific community and the public. Additionally, it will affirm science as a democratic value and advocate for access to the benefits of research for all.

How did it all come about?

Shortly after the Trump administration took office, the staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture were instructed to abstain from sharing data and discussing their research with anyone outside the agencies. All mention of climate change on the White House website was replaced by the America First Energy Plan, which argues that “burdensome regulations” on the US energy industry have “held back” the country’s growth. The new head of the EPA is a climate change sceptic and since taking office, has been quoted as denying the significant role that carbon dioxide plays in climate change.

The environment is not the only area under assault: government funding for research through the National Institute for Health, already pitiably low, now faces significant cuts in the proposed 2018 budget.

Florence B. Seibert's work enabled the development and use of a reliable TB test. #WorldTuberculosisDay #marchforsciencemiami

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Science denial and budget cuts are not new. Political agendas have steadily chipped away at scientific facts, undermining scientific consensus for a while. From global warming to the anti-vaccine movement, from genetically modified organisms to science education, from research funding to censorship, science has constantly been under attack. This is just the tipping point.

Like many other Indians I know, I was raised on a balanced diet of science, mathematics and aspiration. I arrived in the US as a graduate student in 2007, for a doctorate in chemistry. I believed that the US was at the cutting edge of, well, everything. I came here for opportunities not afforded me back home. The costs of scientific research can be prohibitively expensive, with basic lab equipment being priced at tens of thousands of American dollars at the very least. Research grants are frequently in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a developing country like India, this can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, so emigration to the US is often spurred by personal aspirations in search of the mythical American Dream. In my case, the move was partly fuelled by the desire to experience an openly queer culture that I could not, in 2007, find at home. A move to the US seemed like a good decision for both my professional and personal life.

I arrived on a student visa, right before the recession hit. The educational experience was exhilarating and I was able to flourish as a researcher, interacting with leaders in the field and working at world-class research facilities. My work was on socio-microbiology, or how bacteria are sensitive and communicative, and live and thrive in community with each other. When I graduated, things began to change. Funding for basic research was at an all-time low. I struggled to find labs in my field that would sponsor my visa as a postdoctoral researcher. My career choices started to be guided less by passion and more by practicality. I have since transitioned out of academia.

Further research budget cuts, compounded by heightened vetting protocols for obtaining visas, are likely to increase challenges for the Indian academic seeking a US education. These hurdles are disheartening. Advancement in scientific research depends on collaboration, being able to share ideas, open debate and data dissemination by a global science community. The imposition of the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries earlier this year was followed by reports of academics – those who lived in the US or were visiting for work – being denied entry into the country. This is just an example of how American policies can have global impact; the impact is not limited to the science community or to immigration or funding alone. The impact is felt by the planet as harmful environmental policies are imposed, as access to education is restricted. Denying science impacts the way we, as a species, interact with the world around us.

Thank you @scientistsmarch #takecareofourworld #marchforscience #marchforscienceclt #resist #scienceiscool

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The March for Science first appeared on my radar, as so many things do these days, in the form of a viral meme.

In January 2017, soon after Trump’s inauguration, employees of the National Park Service went undercover to tweet climate change statistics anonymously, when their voices were stifled. This act of defiance was inspiring. I soon signed up on the Facebook page of our satellite March for Science in North Carolina, where I live, and became part of the core organising team.

Day 13 of 14 brainstorming signs for the #MarchForScience #ScienceMarch. Special thanks to @colortheheart for 'Women's Health" coloring page that is a background for today's topic: Let's give women access to family planning, and control our population the humane way! Why? The 'au natural' way of population control (overpopulation > resource shortage > violence > starvation > genocide) isn't so great. When women are given the tools to elect their own family size, they choose fewer children, and match the numbers of children to the resources they believe will be available. Reproductive choice is one of science's greatest gifts, and one of the most powerful tools we have to balance human life on earth. Let's make it work! #makeitwork #reproductivechoice #peoplesclimatemarch #climatemarch #whyimarch #globalgagrule #globalgagrulesucks

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To me, this march is important because it serves as a forum to address the many ways in which restrictions imposed on scientific research affect our lives. The march should not be about scientists stepping down from the ivory tower just long enough to defend it. As important as legislation and policy are, I would first like to see the creation of a space where the scientific community can be held accountable. As a queer, person of colour, immigrant, worker, it is important to me that the very real issue of a lack of visibility and representation in science gets addressed, that scientists’ rights are seen as workers’ rights. When science is stifled, it is always the most underprivileged who suffer. The scientific community wishes to be part of the resistance, but where have we been all this while? What can we learn from those who have already been on the ground? How can we demonstrate solidarity? What do we have to offer? What is required of us, but also, how can we be of service above and beyond?