A march and rally are to be held in Edinburgh next month in solidarity with a March for Science in Washington DC on April 22.
Organised by volunteers, the march in the Scottish capital is one of almost 400 similar events in 36 countries.
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“Science is at the very foundation of society, and years from now, I want to be able to say that when I saw the communication of truth and discovery come under threat, I stood up and did something about it,” said research biologist Miceala Shocklee, of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
The Edinburgh march aims to highlight the importance of evidence-based policy and academic freedom as well as show how funding for science is currently under threat. “Everywhere you go in the world, there are barriers to people participating in scientific endeavours,” said PhD student Trevor Sloughter, from the University of Strathclyde. “I’ll be marching because this initiative is a show of unity and solidarity against every barrier, from government censorship to systemic injustice, to prove that science and knowledge are not just essential to society but rights for each and every human being.”
Environmental scientist and mum-of-two Robin Cathcart, from Edinburgh, said she would be marching with her children.
She said: “Having been born in the US, I’m extremely worried about the suppression of facts and well-established evidence that is occurring there.
“While the situation in the UK is clearly better, I’ll be marching with my family on April 22 because I value the role science plays in our medicine, environment, and technologies.”
The event coincides with Earth Day which also takes place on April 22.
Lang Banks, of conservation charity WWF Scotland, said it was important for people to support the march.
“Now, more than ever, the public and scientists here and globally need to stand together to defend science and science-based policy making,” he said. “The march in Edinburgh in April will be a family-friendly event, that everyone interested in celebrating and championing science should look to attend.”
Sujai Kumar, a bioinformatician from the University of Edinburgh, said the threat to science was real.
Kumar said: “I’ve never been politically active before but the growing anti-science and anti-expertise movement around the world makes me realise that we can’t take evidence-based reasoning and policy for granted. Climate change is real, vaccines save lives, and we all need to support a rational worldview that is ethical.”
News of the march comes alongside efforts by Heriot Watt University to promote science among immigrant and bilingual pupils.
Minority ethnic students are less likely to progress to scientific jobs after graduating, facing lower expectations of their abilities – even if they achieve well, according to recent research.
Arabic and Polish speaking scientists were asked to help with workshops at Heriot Watt because of the number of Polish and Arabic speakers in Scotland. According to Scotland’s Census 2011, Polish and Arabic are two of the most spoken languages at home, other than English, with over 54,000 and 9000 speakers, respectively.
With the collaboration of Leith Labs and Bilingualism Matters, and the support of the Biochemical Society, the workshops covered themes such as microbiology, evolution, geology and laser physics.
“The workshops are designed to target pupils who speak a different language at home and in school,” said Dr Ana Catarino of Heriot Watt. “They help pupils realise their full potential while acquiring science knowledge and developing language skills. They are a great opportunity to meet role models and raise pupils’ aspirations.”
The workshops are organised under the umbrella of Native Scientist, a non-profit enterprise that connects immigrant pupils and scientists with the aim of tackling educational disadvantage and promoting science and language literacy.