“Experts are Not The Enemy”
Story by: Katherine Jurgens
A glare of eagles, a wisdom of owls – a collaboration of scientists! A group of local scientists have grown so determined to counter what they identify as a “growing climate of anti-science bias” they’ve organized New Haven’s version of the upcoming national Science March DC.
While headliners like Bill Nye the Science Guy and whistle blowers like Flint Michigan’s Dr. Mona-Hanna-Attisha rally educators, students and concerned citizens at the March for Science on the National Mall in Washington D.C. this Earth Day, five local researchers will lead a concurrent New Haven March for Science satellite march on the same day, Saturday, April 22
The New Haven rally kicks off with a celebratory Community Science Fair at 1 p.m. at College Woods in East Rock Park, 41 Cold Spring Street. “It’s going to feature fun field experiments and interactive science demonstrations,” said March for Science New Haven organizer, Dr. Becky Carlyle.
“There’re going to be ‘story tables’ where local scientists share their personal experiences as researchers and innovators,” continued Dr. Carlyle. “We’re going to tell our stories, put a human face on our work, so everybody can understand ‘experts are not the enemy.’ We’re here to help. So come along inspired! Follow your curiosity.”
And lend an ear as Greater New Haven educators, researchers, innovators and environmental leaders take to the event’s speaker’s stage at 2 p.m., their words meaning to espouse the excitement of research and discovery and the every day value of critical thinking, reasoned analysis and evidence-based governance versus “alternative facts.”
Toward that end, Connecticut State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Rob Klee will also address the rally.
A CT DEEP spokesman said Commissioner Klee is speaking at the rally “because science is the foundation of effective environmental initiatives to protect public health and natural resources. And, in our current era, it seems like the very notion of science and the validly of data and the critical information it provides is under attack. So, it is important to remind everyone of the importance of science in building a strong, prosperous, health and equitable society for the future.”
The march will flow out from the rally, leaving East Rock Park at approximately 3 p.m., to meander along the Elm City’s blossom-adorned streets for about a mile and a half before fetching up at intersection of Livingston Street and Cold Spring Street.
Route details and a full list of speakers, activities and volunteer opportunities are available at March for Science New Haven. Organizers say signs and banners are most definitely welcome and thinking caps are recommended for all.
“Talk to as many scientists as possible,” encouraged Dr. Carlyle. “We want scientists and the general public to mix and communicate, for people to feel encouraged to ask questions.”
It’s a sentiment shared by the four other March organizers, Dr. Diane Krause, Dr. Katerina Politi, Dr Valerie Horsley (all researching and teaching at YALE School of Medicine) and Andrea T McCarthy, an Environmental Sciences graduate student at New Haven University.
Interestingly, even as Dr. Carlyle’s scientific research at Yale University School of Medicine’s psychiatry focuses on the molecular processes the brain uses to strengthen connections involved in memory formation, the goals of the March work to strengthen communications between scientists and the general public.
Dr. Carlyle said, “We’re marching to challenge the current idea that people, the public, are no longer interested in what scientists, experts, have to say. This idea that our country’s better off making policy based on gut decisions. We’re marching to say: ‘Experts’ are not the enemy.’”
Dr. Krause, a Professor of Laboratory Medicine and Associate Director of the Yale Stem Cell Center added, “I have always had a love of science and ‘the scientific method,’ but now I’m motivated by the current groundswell of political activism. I am determined to be an outspoken champion for the cause of ‘evidence-based policies.’ Science is critical for our individual and national health and security. Our voices must be heard.”
All five researchers contend the basic processes of discovery and innovation – critical thinking and analysis – “transcend special interests.” As Dr. Krause said, “Our political process requires all of us, not only academics but all the electorate, to get behind the important issues that touch everyone – science, health care, public arts and education.”
Another March organizer, Dr. Katerina Politi stressed, “People should be marching because science affects our daily lives, from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to sleep at night. Everything around us and everything we do is related to science and progress in science. I am also marching because it is important we continue to support science so we can train and prepare the next generation of students to make the discoveries that will transform the world in the future.” Dr. Politi is an assistant professor, researcher and cancer biologist at Yale Department of Pathology.
Her colleague, Dr. Nadia Ayala-Lopez, a Yale School of Medicine leukemia researcher, added, “I believe everyone should march because science is how we make better decisions about our health and how we are able to take care of the environment and without science we’re not going to know how to do these things.”
Dr. Carlyle continued, “We need science for pretty much every problem that we face as a species,” continued Dr. Carlyle, “from global warming, to fighting diseases and epidemics …essentially all the challenges we face going forward as a species. But the biggest challenge may be getting people to recognize these challenges exist, that we’re facing them in the near future – and that they’re all connected.”
McCarthy added, “Scientific research is what propels many advancements and improvements in our country and across the world. Without the backbone of basic research, our society would stagnate. Education would suffer. The United States would lose its leadership and prestige worldwide. And many people and companies in science may leave for other countries where there are jobs and funding, damaging the US economy. These effects impact all citizens no matter their politics. Science facts are nonpartisan – they apply to everyone.”
The environmental science student continued, “I am hoping that the March for Science will encourage scientists to try harder to engage and excite the public into understanding how the scientific process works, how people can participate in citizen science projects and be more aware of how much of their lives depend on and are enhanced by scientific research.”
“I want people who join the march to come away inspired,” concluded Dr. Carlyle. “I want them to see there’s really great stuff going on right here in New Haven with science. Anyone can approach us. Get involved. Ask us to speak at a community center. There’s hundreds of us here and we’re ready to help.”