Three women holding sign that says Science Benefits Everyone

Because of President Donald Trump’s policies and Neolithic attitude toward women, pussy hats have become popular regalia at protests in downtown Columbus. But at the March for Science on April 22, brain hats outnumbered pussy hats. White lab coats were also in abundance.

An estimated five thousand people gathered on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse to hear physicians, researchers and science educators speak about the essential role of scientific research and the need to base public policy on objective evidence instead of ideology.

“We are wearing our white coats,” said Dr. Beth Liston MD, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at OSU. “They’re not red; they’re not blue. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is simple truth and real fact.”

Dr. Liston is also affiliated with the Physicians Action Network. “Science saves lives,” she said, describing cases of patients surviving cancer after receiving new treatments discovered through publicly-funded research.

“We must support policies that enable scientists to do this life-saving research,” Liston said. “But that is not enough. There are millions of people in this country suffering from diseases that we know how to prevent. We must support policies that actually use the science that we already know. This means access to affordable health care.

“Childhood traumas — like being exposed to violence, or having food insecurity — actually increase chronic illnesses in these children as they grow up. Poor air quality and pollution worsens asthma lung disease. Water contaminated with lead decreases IQ and impairs brain development.

“We must take these things that we know and work together to create policy and keep our country healthy,” Liston said. “As a doctor, I do science every day to help people. I expect my government to do the same!”

A favorite chant from the crowd was:  “What do we want? Evidence-based analysis! When do we want it? After peer review!”

Nerdy, yes. But after being ignored by politicians and policymakers in matters of public health and climate change, the scientists in the crowd and at the podium were entitled to exult in the opportunity to make their voices heard. After the rally, the crowd marched to an Earth Day celebration on the Columbus Commons.

In March for Science events across the U.S., the scientific community was right in stressing the importance of educating the public and politicians. However, education is only part of the answer. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

“I'm glad that so many people have supported the March for Science today,” said Alex Davis, a PhD student in physics at Ohio State and member of Socialist Alternative. “It is a fantastic opportunity to fight for a society in which science is used for the benefit of the whole of humanity and policy is supported by evidence.

“But at the same time, don't listen to the narrative that we live in a post-fact world,” Davis said. “The issue of science denial is one of power and not some sudden cultural shift. Fighting climate change will affect powerful wealthy industrial interests.

“To take on these wealthy and powerful interests will require organized and coordinated struggle. This march is a great first step, but we must build political organizations that can counter these systems of power and continue to fight on.”

We will possibly add something from the People’s Climate March this Saturday…

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