Social justice

There’s a Rally for Science happening next week. Here’s why

The April 14 event at Thomas Paine Plaza will feature speakers from the National Wildlife Federation, Delaware startup CompassRed and the American Geophysical Union.

At 2017's Philadelphia March for Science. (Photo courtesy of Will Standish)

Drawing on the success of last year’s March for Science, which drew thousands of protesters down Market Street, Philly activists have banded together under a new independent organization called Philadelphia Science in Action, a non-partisan effort to advocate for an evidence-based approach in public policy.

The organization’s first move is the Rally for Science, happening April 14 at Thomas Paine Plaza. While last year’s march drew visibility to the cause of science funding and science-based decision making, the push from activists this year is around action and engagement.

“The high level of funding provided for scientific research and related programs in the recently passed federal budget reflects the importance of letting legislators know that voters value science,” said PSA’s president, Kim Beidler. “But it’s not just about funding; policies, personnel and other issues are also critically important in ensuring that society continues to benefit from science.”

The two-hour rally will feature speakers from a mix of public and private walks of science:

  • Walter Tsou, President, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility; former Health Commissioner, City of Philadelphia
  • Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine; blogger on geoscience education for the American Geophysical Union
  • Patrick Callahan, Cofounder, CompassRed
  • Josh McNeil, Executive Director, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
  • Halle Van Der Gaag, Manager, Delaware River Programs, National Wildlife Federation

Why is now the time to raise the flag for science? For PSA board member Ashley Winslow, asking government to follow science’s lead for policy creation is an essential demand.

“This is long overdue,” said Winslow stated. “If anything scientists are playing catch up. No one questions why people demand clean water or speak out against corrupt politicians. Why would it be any different for scientists pointing out scientific evidence that should be used in policy making. Who else should be responsible for demanding rationale evidence-based thinking as a part of political dialogue if not scientists and all those who support science?”

PSA Secretary Marion Leary, a Penn researcher a cofounder of now-shuttered spinoff ImmERge Labs, said the organization looks to be a new resource to help communities become better advocates for science.

“Society benefits when public policy is guided by the vast body of scientific knowledge that is available to decision makers,” Leary said. “PSA wants to make sure that continues to be the case.”


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