Get on the Bus Rush! AAAS Should Formally Endorse March for Science | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

It’s not often you see a public celebration of science. But come April, thousands of people, scientists and others, are expected to march in support of the field and its contributions to society.


But the March for Science is also a response to the feeling among many scientists that they are under siege by a hostile Trump administration and distrusted by many Americans.


Navigating that tension is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).


With the AAAS annual meeting taking place now in Boston, the group’s president, Barbara Schaal, and CEO, Rush Holt, met with STAT reporters to discuss why scientists need to be politically engaged, their views on the March for Science (“Science Not Silence! MARCH FOR SCIENCE - April 22, 2017”;, and why they worry that the Trump administration hasn’t appointed a science adviser in the White House or scientists in other agencies. Holt is a physicist by training and a former Democratic congressman, and Schaal is a biologist.


What’s your confidence level in this administration right now?


RH: If there’s an emerging disease that pops up in this country or elsewhere, I would say we are not prepared. We just have not succeeded in convincing the new administration that what we’re asking for is not a science plant inside the White House to look out for the interests of people in lab coats, but rather to get them to understand that it’s in their interest to integrate science and scientifically evaluated evidence into their policy making.


What’s been the reaction to the election?


BS: I have never seen my colleagues so galvanized than after this most recent election. People are talking about, what do we do? If you look at the membership of AAAS, it’s shooting up.


Are you worried about that backfiring?


RH: It’s a concern, but scientists have to be reminded that the response to a challenge to science is not to retreat to the microscope, to the laboratory, to the ivory tower. This requires vigorous defense. We think science is so beneficial to society that it should be defended.


Do you have a position on the March for Science?


RH: We have said that we are going to work energetically with our members, with our affiliate societies to see that the March for Science is a success.


BS: The folks that I talk to, they’re really in two camps. One group says this a potential disaster, it’s going to really politicize science, and it’s going to hurt the entire endeavor. And then there’s another group that says just get me on a bus, I’m coming.


Which camp are you in?


BS: I guess I’m thinking of the bus, but I’m not quite there yet.