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March for Science: In peer review, we trust

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SCIENCE OVER SILENCE — Supporters in research and science gathered in Washington
D.C. to share their voices on research funding. Science educator, Bill Nye, spoke to the crowds
about the importance of science and innovation. (The New Yorker)

On April 22, people across the world celebrated Earth Day. Originating in 1970, this national holiday provides focus on the environment and sustainability. Over 20 million Americans gathered in massive coast to coast rallies to demonstrate their support against the deterioration of the environment. Environmentalists have been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories, power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps and pesticides. With the concern of the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife, these supporters finally realized they shared common values.

Over 600 cities across the globe gathered together to take a stand with science and research. A partial reasoning for these marches was to protest against President Donald Trump’s plan to make budget cuts to agencies funding science research.

The main March for Science occurred in Washington D.C. at Washington’s National Mall, where speakers presented the importance of science as the force for moving humanity forward. Protesters also rallied against policy makers who make claims against scientific evidence and research in areas of climate change. Trump’s budget plan revealed $54 billion of cuts from government programs to allow for an increase in defense spending. Millions of people are concerned with this plan, especially scientists since this may lead to a detrimental impact on research and science based policy. In addition, importance of science and innovation may deteriorate, limiting future technology.

Katherine Mathieson, chief executive of the British Science Association, hoped for the marches to be a catalyst for people to think about the role science plays in their lives. This was a chance for scientists to demonstrate the public benefit of their work.

“Science is not just for scientists, and I believe that all of us, whether we work in a lab or not, should have a voice on its future,” Mathieson said. “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity, yet today we have many lawmakers–not just here, but around the world–deliberately ignoring and actively suppress ing science.”

Several scientists, such as Leland Melvin a veteran who served two space shuttle missions and as NASA’s associate administrator for education, spoke about the impact of science attributing it to the ability to look down at Earth from space. Nancy Grace Roman, who was the first female executive at NASA serving a prominent role in the Hubble Space Telescope plan, also appeared in Washington. Anousheh Ansari, an Iranian American engineer and entrepreneur who became the first female space tourist for the International Space Station, addressed the Washington crowd about the unity that science brings.

Even the well known science educator Bill Nye shared his voice in saying, “Our lawmakers must know and accept that science serves every one of us. Every citizen of every nation in society. Science must shape policy. Science is universal. Science brings out the best in us. With an informed, optimistic view of the future, we can dare I say it– save the world!”

So where does the fund ing money come from? If you don’t already know this, every one pays for scientific research through taxes and donations. Government grants such as the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health, fund organizations and nonprofit foundations for doing research and technological development. A mix of government agencies, educational institutions and several foundations provide grants to today’s researchers.

The only common issue research has to offer are the biases it portrays. More specifically, research can be controversial when an organization that pro vides the grant may influence the outcome of the study or alter the interpretation. While research shouldn’t be ignored, it should be taken under consideration and be carefully scrutinized before concluding straight to the results. For instance, are the results consistent with other independently funded studies? Is the study designed fairly? What are the opinions of other scientists?

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