Geologist on why a scientists’ march on Washington is a bad idea

From coastal geologist Robert S. Youngjan at New York Times:

Talk is growing about a March for Science on Washington, similar to the Women’s March the day after President Trump’s inauguration. It is a terrible idea.

Among scientists, understandably, there is growing fear that fact-based decision making is losing its seat at the policy-making table. There’s also overwhelming frustration with the politicization of science by climate change skeptics and others who see it as threatening to their interests or beliefs.

But trying to recreate the pointedly political Women’s March will serve only to reinforce the narrative from skeptical conservatives that scientists are an interest group and politicize their data, research and findings for their own ends. More.

Good points but he is kidding himself if he thinks that skeptical conservatives are the only people who wonder about that.

In any event, as noted earlier, it is possible that the whole culture that underlies reflexive “marching” is passé, that it is based on a misunderstanding of how the internet is changing communications.

In the days when mainstream media were gatekeepers, 500,000 people walking down the boulevards with signs might be reasonably calculated to represent many times that number glued to TV, listening to radio while driving, scanning the pix spreads in newspapers, and listening to top-of-the-charts celeb protest songs. All in concert, that was One Big Message — a billboard few could escape.

Not sure things work that way today. The audience is fragmented. People are texting and checking their mail and their Twitter feed. And Facebook, of course. Not just for uninformed opinion either; they are also reading a variety of disparate informed voices on the internet, from all over the world. What matters in the long run may be a march or it may something else altogether.

An increasingly typical (but usually unspoken) response to “I Marched!” is, “Who cares?” Why not save the jet fuel by staying home and helping educate the community? Especially if your big thing is the environment?

In a free country, scientists can march if they want. But they should really apply the scientific method to the question of whether that is the best way to reach people today.

See also: Is the March for Science on Washington tailor-made to undermine the cause? When people have spent a lifetime immersed in a discipline, the best way for them to command respect is probably NOT to just take their cues from anyone with a crowd, a sign, and a mike.

and

Nature: Scientists stunned by Trump victory Really? What does that say about the scientific method?

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