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Scientists and their supporters will be picking up protest signs instead of test tubes this weekend.
From the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and fanning out to 425 satellite locations in the United States and around the world, hundreds of thousands are expected to join Saturday's March for Science. According to organizers, the event aims “to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.”
The nonpartisan event originated from scientists concerned that funding and respect for their work were being diminished by some elected officials.
“When the current administration announced its deep cuts to the EPA and other federal agencies, we were a little disturbed by that but what really got us upset was when the current administration attempted to suppress and discredit the federal scientists in the EPA,” Marc Moncilovich, a Las Vegas geologist, told KNPR's State of Nevada.
He said the march in Las Vegas will be more like a 'teach-in' or rally with scientists and researchers speaking alongside lawmakers. He said interest in the event has been "amazing."
Marianne Denton is one of the organizers of the event in Reno. She said more than 1,000 people have RSVP'd to the event on their Facebook page. She expects many more than that will attend.
Denton is personally affected by possible cuts in research money, outside any impact it would have on her career as a hydrologist. She has been diagnosed with a rare carcinoma and she is worried that cuts in funding to the National Institutes of Health could impact research on treatments.
“Through the current administration’s budget cuts at the National Institutes of Health about 20 percent from 2017, critical research on chronic conditions that affect citizens all over our country will be cut," she said.
At this point, cuts to the EPA or NIH or any other federal agency are just proposed in President Trump's budget. The budget must still go through Congress.
But Professor Melissa Giovanni, who teaches science at the College of Southern Nevada, is worried that measures already put into place, like the rollback of Obama-era protection measures for streams and rivers, are just the start. Giovanni said people have taken for granted some of the air and water pollution standards that were instituted years ago and if those are threatened they will respond.
“People like having air they don’t have to chew and they like having clean water to drink," she said, "So if there is actually a legitimate threat against our resources, people are going to stand up as we’re seeing in the March for Science all around the country.”
She said people should be demanding policy makers use the best science available to make decisions that benefit everyone.
“I think we should all be very concerned when any administration attempts to discredit or silence publicly funded science. I think – at its heart – that is essentially wrong,” he said. He said the country needs real scientific theories, not conspiracy theories.
Marianne Denton, hydrologist; Marc Moncilovich, geologist; Melissa Giovanni, CSN Professor