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March Spurs Interaction Between Scientists, Community

Hundreds gathered at the Charlotte March for Science, as scientists look for ways to engage with their community and participate in policy discussions. (Clean Air Carolina)
April 24, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Scientists across North Carolina are presumably back in the lab today after trading in their beakers and pipets for posters and megaphones on Saturday.

The March for Science was held this weekend in eight North Carolina cities and hundreds of others around the world. But organizers and participants say it's only the beginning.

Brian Magi, an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, was part of that city's march. He said he and other scientists were reminded of how important it is to step out of the lab and engage the public.

"I would never think of myself as somebody who would walk in a protest to make sure that science is recognized,” Magi said. "That being said, I think there is a role scientists are learning to play in society and it's more about community interaction and making sure we actually are talking about the work that we do and how it's relevant."

Organizers of the march have said that they will continue to fight for science that serves the common good, education that includes the latest in scientific advancements for students, and evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest. The movement was organized after recent policy decisions and statements by the Trump administration that called into question the effects of climate change and threatened funding for some scientific research.

College student Calvin Cupini spoke at the march on behalf of Clean Air Carolina. He said with a political climate where proven scientific facts about such topics as climate change are called into question, it's urgent to involve the public to prevent science from becoming a partisan issue.

"The goal of a scientist, though, is just to continue reducing the uncertainty, is to continue to apply all of the great knowledge that has already been gathered to new understanding so that there's less uncertainty in the future,” Cupini said.

Magi said if policymakers continue to devalue and de-fund scientific research, there's a long list of countries ready to step in and fill the void in academic leadership left by the U.S.

"If we begin to take that for granted, then I think other countries will begin to take that role,” Magi warned. "It's time to make sure that we understand just what that has brought to our country in terms of innovation - in terms of a workforce that is as skilled as it is."

This Saturday, the People's Climate March will be held in Washington, D.C. Clean Air Carolina is coordinating a bus from Charlotte to the nation's capital. More information is available at CleanAirCarolina.org.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC