Major Science Groups Endorse Earth Day "March for Science"


The March for Science, set for 22 April, is creating a buzz in the scientific community. The march arose as a grassroots reaction to concerns about the conduct of science under President Donald Trump. And it has spurred debate over whether it will help boost public support for research, or make scientists look like another special interest group, adding to political polarization.

Leaders of many scientific societies have been mulling whether to formally endorse or take a role in the event. And today, some major groups—including AAAS (publisher of ScienceInsider), which has about 100,000 members, and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), which has about 60,000 members—announced they are signing on. The two organizations were on a list of 25 formal partners unveiled by the March for Science.

“We see the activities collectively known as the March as a unique opportunity to communicate the importance, value and beauty of science,” AAAS CEO Rush Holt wrote in a statement on the website of the Washington, D.C.–based organization, which bills itself as the largest general science society in the world. Participation “is in keeping with AAAS’ long-standing mission to ‘advance science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.’”

“This is a unique moment for AGU, the scientific community, our nation, and the world,” AGU President Eric Davidson and President-elect Robin Bell wrote in a statement on the website of the organization, also based in Washington, D.C. The March “presents … a very real, high-profile opportunity to call on our elected leaders to remember the role science plays in our society and to support scientific innovation and discovery, and the people and programs that make it possible,” wrote AGU CEO Chris McEntee.

The details of how the endorsing organizations will be involved in the march are still being worked out, AAAS CEO Rush Holt told ScienceInsider. For instance, possible financial support from AAAS has not yet been discussed, he says. Holt acknowledged concerns that the march could lead to a political backlash if it is perceived primarily as a partisan attack on the Trump administration. But he says “I would be more concerned about having a big rally on behalf of science and our not being there.”

Here are the groups included on today’s list of formal March for Science partners:

  • Earth Day Network (co-organizing Washington, D.C., march)
  • 314 Action
  • 500 Women Scientists
  • American Anthropological Association
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • American Association of University Professors
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Society for Cell Biology (about 9000 members)
  • Association for Research in Vision Ophthalmology
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Cochrane Collaboration
  • Consortium of Social Science Associations
  • Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO
  • Entomological Society of America (about 6000 members)
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO
  • League of Extraordinary Scientists
  • National Center for Science Education
  • National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs
  • The Natural History Museum (mobile museum)
  • New York Academy of Sciences
  • NextGen Climate America
  • Research!America
  • Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science
  • Science Debate
  • Sigma Xi (more than 110,000 members)
  • Society for Conservation Biology North America
  • Union of Concerned Scientists

Here’s a rundown of where other groups stand (newest entries at the top of each section; updated 23 February):

Say they are supporting the march

  • The American Statistical Association (ASA) in Alexandria, Virginia. ASA “endorses the stated purposes of the 22 April March for Science as a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” reads a statement on ASA’s website (nearly 19,000 members).
  • The American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) supports the march and canceled a plenary lecture at their annual meeting, scheduled in New Orleans, Louisiana, this year, so that organization leaders can accompany conference attendees to the local march, AAPA Vice President Josh Snodgrass told Science (about 1700 members).
  • The Association for Psychological Science in Washington, D.C. “We stand with all of the other disciplines in the scientific community in support of the march and are helping to get the word out via social media. And we are brainstorming about other ways to help,” the organization’s executive director, Sarah Brookhart, wrote in an email (about 33,000 members). 
  • The American Sociological Association in Washington, D.C., has endorsed the march in a statement on its website (more than 13,000 members).

Say they are thinking about it, but no decision yet

  • The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) in Washington, D.C. “SfN is committed to communicating the crucial role of science and the importance of open global scientific exchange,” said Kara Flynn, senior director of communications and marketing, in an email to ScienceInsider. “Working with AAAS, we look forward to learning more about the event’s goals.” (about 38,000 members).

  • The Optical Society (OSA) in Washington, D.C. “We are still considering at this time if or how we will get involved. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the news for planning updates,” Rebecca Andersen, OSA’s public relations director, wrote in an email (more than 20,000 members).

  • The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) in Rockville, Maryland. “Although we have a date and a compelling mission statement, there’s a lot that has yet to be worked out,” noted ASPB Chief Executive Officer Crispin Taylor in an email. “That said, to the extent that the march organizers maintain their emphasis on a positive and apolitical message regarding empirical science and its role in decision making, I expect that, at a minimum, ASPB will support the participation of its members in the march.” (about 4000 members).

  • The American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland. “We simply do not know much about this march yet,” wrote AIP Chief Executive Officer Robert Brown in an email. But he noted that AIP staff is “free to exercise their free speech by participating in this demonstration as individuals.” (a federation of 10 societies that, combined, have more than 120,000 members).

  • The American Chemical Society (ACS) in Washington, D.C. “The American Chemical Society is impressed with [the] number of individuals who have already voiced their support for science and the march—it is a testament to the grassroots organizing power of social media. ACS is currently seeking to gain greater insight into the goals and messaging of the march to determine if there is an appropriate role for the Society,” reads a statement from ACS (more than 157,000 members).

Other

  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, D.C. “This isn’t something we’re currently planning on getting involved in, as an association,” wrote Jeff Lieberson, the organization’s vice president of public affairs, in an email to ScienceInsider. APLU includes 238 institutions, including many major research universities.
  • The American Physiological Society (APS) in Bethesda, Maryland. 22 April is the first day of the APS annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, which could create a conflict for the society’s members, APS Communications Manager Stacy Brooks wrote in an email. She noted that it’s not clear whether APS will play a role in the march and that the society has not been contacted by march organizers, adding, “We hope that the energy generated by the March inspires more people to advocate on behalf of research and discovery for many years to come.” (about 10,500 members).
  • “At this point, we are not engaged with” the march, says a spokesperson for the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States, a nonprofit research organization based in Fairbanks, Alaska.

So far no organizations have explicitly come out against the march. But American Institute of Physics Chief Executive Robert Brown suggested in an email that any “inflammatory demonstrations will cause negative retaliations.”