Earth Day is here as I write this report, a beautiful sunny spring day in the Midwest with showy trees and flowers and optimistic bird-song just outside the window. A recent article by David Suzuki (http://www.davidsuzuki.org) and Facebook posts from SIVB members are some of the acknowledged sources of these comments.
Although science isn’t everything, it sure is close. SIVB and its mix of cutting edge science as well as scientific debate, complete with new generations of younger scientists is an inspiration beyond my expectations. In addition to my life-long colleagues, the enthusiasm of our students, postdocs, and newer scientists fuels a renewal not normally associated with titles that include “emeritus”. I can’t wait to greet friends and friends to be at our annual meeting in Raleigh, and learn about the results that are genuinely changing what and how we think about our science.
Despite the positive news about technical progress, these are times in which drastic technological changes are underway at global and national levels that are perilous for science. Large reductions in scientific budgets in the private and the public sectors are not easily regained if there is an awakening in the next year or the following year. Infrastructure and the highly trained individuals that go with it are not the same as widgets that respond to the immediate demand in one town versus another.
The spontaneous growth of the March for Science was greater than I expected—and it has potential benefits and pitfalls as my colleagues have pointed out. At first all the activities were centered in Washington DC, simply because that’s where most national protests are centered. However, this has spread nationwide—over 40 separate locations in the Mid-Western states including Iowa, and 425 marches around the world. To paraphrase Suzuki’s web article, the purpose of the event is to support “evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and accessible science”. The Facebook page has 850,000 members! As I’ve purveyed the web site I note that there is clear emphasis on policy rather than politicians. I believe this distinction is crucial, since we as individuals and as a society will be directly impacted—our technology leadership is at stake. Nevertheless, we can’t afford to wander onto personal criticism when pointing out “good scientific information helps people make the best decisions to take us into the future1.” SIVB’s Public Policy Chair, Thomas J. Flynn attended the March in Washington and will provide more information to our membership—most likely on our Facebook page. Stay tuned!
One final thought, scientific progress will continue in our research area. Technology changes will impact us, which will require adaptations as we continue our work. We must emphasize effective communication to our non-science friends as a first priority.