Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Marching Again in the March for Science

Last year I gave some thought before deciding to participate in the Portland March for Science. It was not that I am afraid to express my political views, but rather I had some hesitation about politicizing science. In the end, however, I felt compelled to take a stand against what I view as attacks on science by those whose political views with which I also happen to disagree. I was also afraid for science last year, as the new Administration was threatening huge cuts threatened for its funding.

I have no hesitation in deciding to participate again this year. I actually find myself less alarmed about the impact of the current political environment on science than I was a year ago. While some areas of science (e.g., climate change) are a good deal more impacted than those of us in the biomedical and informational sciences, the federal budget for science this year reflects the usual bipartisan support, at least the latter areas. Even though I do have concerns for those want to slash the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has fared quite well. There is such value for federally funded science research, not only for the basic discoveries that lead to improved health and delivery of healthcare, but it also boost the local economies of organizations that successfully compete for grants and other funding. It even has a multiplier effect, as scientific research leads to local hiring, and those who are hired then spend money at local grocery stores, eating establishments, and other businesses.

Both last year and this year, I have been impressed that a number of Republicans, whose policy views in general I probably mostly disagree with, have been outspoken on the importance of funding biomedical research. It was fascinating for me last year, when Republican Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) said, A cut to NIH is not a cut to Washington bureaucracy — it is a cut to life-saving treatments and cures, affecting research performed all across the country.

I also enjoyed the camaraderie as well as the funny signs last year and presume I will this year. I appreciate the organizers call for the march to be pro-science and not anti-anything. I hope the turnout will be strong and positive.

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