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President's Blog - April 2017

April 27 2017 by Ian M. Anderson
President’s Letter
April 2017

Dear MSA Colleagues,

On Earth Day, April 22, my wife Letty and I attended one of the 600+ rallies held worldwide as part of the March for Science. The nearly three-hour rally featured remarks given by 20-30 individuals – scientists, educators, medical professionals, and science enthusiasts – who spoke in support of sustained government support for scientific research and the continuing role of evidence-based science in policy discussions. My most significant take-away from this event is that we scientists need to better communicate the work that we do to ordinary people.

The event itself, held at the Meyer Amphitheater in West Palm Beach, was idyllic. In contrast to the heavy rains braved by the attendees of the main March for Science on the National Mall in Washington DC, the weather could not have been more ideal. Perhaps because a more “activist” rally (featuring a march to Mar-a-Lago) was scheduled elsewhere in West Palm Beach later that afternoon, this morning rally was light-hearted and low key, with T-shirt sales and children’s face painting. The venue was ample for accommodating the 150-200 people who gathered, so people could spread out over the lawn and banks of the ovular gathering place.

Representative speakers included: one of the senior scientists at the nearby Scripps Research Institute, who spoke about how the proposed 20% cut in the 2018 budget proposal for National Institutes of Health (NIH) would mean his letting go promising young scientists at his institution; a young female medical professional talking about the importance of medical innovations to public health; an engaging young rabbi who articulated his belief in both science and religion, and what their respective roles were; and a survivor of cervical cancer who talked about how recent developments made her treatment and remission less invasive and more effective. In the main, the speakers were not titans of science, but rather those who saw the relevance of science to their own lives and who mustered the courage and conviction to contact the organizers to speak at this forum.

The unstructured nature of the event lent a charm to the proceedings. There were no approved “talking points” provided, let alone remonstrations to “stay on message.” The attendees were not versed in the basics of activism – even the folk musician who tried to whip up the crowd with selections from the Pete Seeger lexicon (this was Earth Day, after all) received a half-hearted response. However, the attendance barely waned throughout the event, suggesting that like me, those who turned out knew that their participation at the March for Science was important, even if they didn’t know exactly what that participation should entail.

This leads me to my take-away from this event. The scientific community has for many years enjoyed a bipartisan consensus about the importance of government funding of scientific research. I, for one, expect that the inertia of this consensus will lead to largely sustained funding in fiscal year 2018. However, I do not believe that the scientific community can continue to count on this goodwill unless we better represent what it is we do – and its importance to human welfare – to the voting public. To do so – and in the spirit of what I witnessed last weekend – I think that the best way to do so is for each of us to learn to articulate in our own words the nature of our work and why it is important to us.

Happy Earth Day everybody.

Ian M. Anderson
President, Microscopy Society of America

Posted in | 1 comments

1 response to “President's Blog - April 2017”

  1. Chris Brantner Says:

    Thank you for your thoughts on the rally that you attended. While we all had our reasons to attend a rally or not, I believe that a personal message from us as scientists to our colleagues, family and friends goes a long way to sharing and spread our knowledge and trust in science. To scientists, this is personal and not political, but we need share with the public why science is important. Always take the time to share your love of science.
    Chris Brantner

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