On Saturday 22 April, a March for Science will be held in almost 500 cities across the globe to protest the increasing trend to demonise science and impede free research. Wageningen lecturer Severine van Bommel is one of the organisers in the Netherlands.
Logo: March for Science.nl
The idea to hold a protest march emerged in Washington DC and was followed up around the world within a few days. In its statement, the organisation points out the importance of independent and free science for society and for the democratic process. It is not a coincidence the demonstrations will take place on Earth Day.
However, this is not an anti-Trump demonstration, says Van Bommel, who works in the Strategic Communication group. ‘The global anti-intellectual wave is on the rise. In Turkey, for example, thousands of scientists have been incarcerated. And even the Dutch House of Representatives has passed a motion that requires the monitoring of political tendencies of scientists.’
Van Bommel is worried about these developments. ‘This was the reason I immediately volunteered with the organisation when I heard about the initiative. I want to have my voice heard and do something constructive. I want to show how fun and interesting science can be.’
In preparation for the demonstration, the organisation has used the hashtag #Thanks2Science to emphasise that we would have gotten nowhere without science: from reading glasses to dykes, from clean water to solar panels; nearly everything around us has been created with the influence of science at some point.
There will be two demonstrations in the Netherlands: one in Amsterdam and one in Maastricht. ‘There was also a lot of interest from people in Maastricht to join in a march, but people did not want to travel all the way to Amsterdam to take part.’ There are several things that Van Bommel can tell about the March for Science in Amsterdam, for example that there will be a podium with speakers, as well as two tents where Teach-Inns will be held to explain what science involves and on topics like climate change and infectious diseases. ‘We are also organising a science walk that shows important scientific discoveries along the way.’
WUR endorses the statement of the March for Science and supports the organisation with a small contribution. ‘The March for Science draws attention to the freedom of science, and we as an institution support that, of course’, says spokesperson Simon Vink. VSNU, the other Dutch universities, Robert Dijkgraaf, André Kuipers and various scientific organisations have also expressed their support.
An estimate of the number of people that will travel from WUR to Amsterdam or Maastricht to join in the protests is difficult to make at the moment, but it is certain that people will go. Van Bommel has received confirmation from various people about their attendance. There will also be a group from the Wageningen division of the recently set up 500 Women Scientists going to Amsterdam. Besides the importance of diversity and inclusivity, this organisation points out that ‘our work as scientists and our values as human beings are under attack in this new era of anti-science and misinformation.’