Marching for Science #7

Interesting summary of the Science March from STAT:

  • Yes, it was a partisan anti-Trump event – “critics of the march who worried that it could turn scientists into an interest group to be isolated and ignored will likely feel their concerns validated after the event.”
  • It was mostly white – “There were [speakers] who were immigrants, trans, gay, Native American, black, Latino, young, and old. … But that audience itself was largely white.”
  • Industry science wasn’t there – “companies that are now marketing their ‘bold’ work in scientific discovery and developing new treatments largely lacked an official presence at the marches.”
  • People had fun – “lots of kids, dogs, and people dressed as dinosaurs. … and plenty of off-rhythm dancing to funk bands.”
  • What comes next is uncertain – “Will the march make a difference? Or will it end up as a historical footnote?”

March for Science, Washington, DC (photo: Becker1999)


Misquotes for Science

It’s a tough call, but the award for silliest statement at the March for Science has to go to the line “Dante said that the hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” Dante never said anything of the sort, of course – the line is derived from something JFK said (“The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality”), derived in turn from a chain of misquotes going back to Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve written before about Dante and Science, but suffice to say that in Dante’s Inferno, the worst regions are actually icy cold, and “neutrals” are not found there:

Please, let’s not have any “alternative facts” about Dante. The climate of the Inferno is important too.


Marching for Science #5

Further to my previous comments on the Science March, the graph below shows the (somewhat dubious) attendance estimates from Wikipedia for various cities (excluding vague counts like “thousands”), compared to the power-law predictor 0.47 D1.49 P0.78, where D is the fraction of the relevant state voting for Clinton last year (from Wikipedia), and P is the city population (also from Wikipedia).

The population P predicts 56% of the variance in turnout (not surprisingly), and D an additional 7%. Both factors were significant (p = 0.000000055 and p = 0.014 respectively). Prediction could probably be improved by using metro area population numbers for the cities, by using metro area election results (rather that state results), and by adding factors indicating the number of other marches in the relevant state (Colorado Springs, for example, was rather overshadowed by Denver) and the presence of universities (Ann Arbor, for example, is a university town). But the basic messages seem to be: Democrat voters do not like Donald Trump and Large cities attract large crowds. It would be interesting to compare the numbers here against other recent political marches which focused on different issues.


Marching for Science #4

Well, we’ve had the long-awaited Science March. It was, as expected, very much an anti-Trump event. Topics on people’s minds included threatened budget cuts, climate change, pesticides, intersectionality, immigration policy, defence policy, and the claim that climate change science had been removed from the EPA web site (it hadn’t).


March for Science, Washington, DC (photo: Becker1999)

Trump’s response to the march was “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. … As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” I’m not sure if the marchers expected any outcome other than that.


March for Science, Washington, DC (photo: Becker1999)

There was the usual set of signs suggesting that peer-reviewed science is “true.” Which is odd, because cold fusion claims passed peer review, along with much other dubious work. Indeed, peer review has known problems. Perhaps, in public debate, we scientists should put more emphasis on replication.


Marching for Science #3

The March for Science continues to be controversial. Some scientists will attend the march, and others will sit it out. Above is the wordcloud for the march website, as at April 18. The top six words are “science,” “march,” “community,” “scientific,” “policy,” and “diversity.” Combining those results with recent news, I think this indicates that the focus of the march has finally stabilised, and that intersectionality and diversity within science is now the key topic. I wonder how the audience of the march will react?


Marching for Science #2

The March for Science is coming up soon. Above is a recent wordcloud for the @ScienceMarchDC Twitter feed. The focus of the march does not yet seem to have stabilised, and controversies continue to rage.

Some scientists have pulled out of the event and, as far as I can tell, there has been a shift to criticism of science itself, particularly with regard to intersectionality and diversity issues (“inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility are central to the mission and principles of the March for Science”). However, climate change is also a topic of concern, as are genetic engineering, and Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The march will be held on Lenin’s birthday.


Marching for Science

Some scientists will be marching for science next month. Not all of them – physicist Sylvester James Gates, for example, does not “want to see a march that sets science against the president,” and warns that conducting a politically charged event “might send a message to the public that scientists are driven by ideology more than by evidence.” Coastal geologist Robert S. Young worries that “a march by scientists, while well intentioned, will serve only to trivialize and politicize the science we care so much about, turn scientists into another group caught up in the culture wars and further drive the wedge between scientists and a certain segment of the American electorate.” On the other hand, many scientific societies have endorsed the march.

And what will scientists be marching for? I did a quick wordcount on the @ScienceMarchDC Twitter feed (see chart below), but that does not entirely answer my question. Going by the official website, it’s partly about “recent policy changes” in the USA, which I presume (looking at the list) is a reference to US immigration policy. But more general fears about what Donald Trump might do also seem to be part of the motivation.