March for Science rallies have been called in more than 37 countries to demand greater public funding of science. The rallies will coincide with Earth Day on April 22. The movement began in the US, and has now been endorsed by almost a hundred scientific organisations.
The march was directly inspired by the Women’s Marches, the largest protests in US history. Within a week of its announcement, more than 300,000 people had signed up to the US event on Facebook. In Australia events have so far been called for Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Townsville.
The rallies have initially been inspired by the Trump government’s attacks on both science funding and the public communication of climate science. In Australia, recent years have seen cuts to organisations such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) as well as to grant bodies, including the Australian Research Council and the Cooperative Research Centres program.
In many cases the costs of doing research rise, but budgets of research organisations are not increased to match. The National Health and Medical Research Council has seen its funding stagnate, with the Australian Society for Medical Research estimating that the equivalent of 700 full time jobs in vital medical research have been lost between 2013 and 2016.
At the same time, far right politicians attack the very concept of science, with climate change deniers such as Malcolm Roberts attempting to play on people’s sense of alienation and serve the fossil fuel industry by driving wedges between scientists and ordinary people.
The biggest priority of government is shoring up the profits of big business. This means cutting public spending to fund tax breaks for the rich. Welfare, healthcare and education are often targeted. Science is not immune from this process. A general fightback against all cuts is necessary, and the March for Science has the potential to be an integral part of this.
By David Elliott
See also: Scientists fight back