Long an impartial voice, St. Louis scientists take on new role in 'March for Science' | St. Louis Public Radio

Long an impartial voice, St. Louis scientists take on new role in 'March for Science'

Apr 21, 2017

“SCIENCE IS REAL,” declares a stack of printed signs in a St. Louis shop. “Reject Alt-Facts,” reads a hand-drawn poster shared on a Facebook page. Another photo shows a purple Easter egg emblazoned with a diagram of an atom.

For many scientists planning to participate in the St. Louis March for Science on Saturday, activism is an unfamiliar role. But proposals by the Trump administration to slash federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health and federal science programs have been too much to accept, organizers said.

The proposed cuts to research came as a huge blow to scientists, said Dr. Inna Park, an organizer for the march and consultant for the Amanda Luckett Murphy Hopewell Center in St. Louis.

“That is the foundation of what makes America a leader in innovation in the world,” said Park, an internist. “We need to say we can’t do this right now.”

The St. Louis march will coincide with Earth Day and a national March for Science in Washington, D.C. Satellite marches are also planned in Rolla and Carbondale.

In St. Louis, about 75 people have formed a core team of organizers. A private Facebook group that covers logistics and provides updates has more than 8,000 members. Despite the goals and objectives for the day crafted by national march leaders, Park stressed that the St. Louis event is nonpartisan.

“We are going to be marching for the principles of scientific inquiry, which are about asking questions, being open minded and listening and collaborating with people in a way that’s productive,” Park said.

About 150,000 people in the bi-state St. Louis region work in science, health care, and related fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Add students and science enthusiasts into the mix, and protest organizers have a large pool of potential participants to pull from. For outreach, they held volunteer trainings and networking events over beer.   

Co-organizer Cynthia Lloyd is the founder of a science advocacy nonprofit organization in Maryland Heights. She said she owes her life to science.

Years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma that did not respond to two available treatments. So Lloyd turned to Washington University, where she participated in a clinical trial so she could try a new drug not yet on the market. She's now in remission. 

Dr. Inna Park, an internal medicine physician, is one of the organizers for the St. Louis March for Science on Saturday.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

“My kids were 8 and 13 and I sat on my phone with my doctor, and I talked about how I would die,” Lloyd said. “My children are now 25 and 20.”

LaShana Lewis, a systems engineer by day, said she will march to support diversity in STEM careers, and to say that science should play a role in shaping public policy.

“A lot of people talk about climate change … they’re talking about technical research being held up because of ideology,” Lewis said. “We need to put more of a push on where we need to go and what we need to do as far as regulating scientific principles and policies.” 

Lewis, who trained to be a programmer at St. Louis-based LaunchCode, is scheduled to speak at the march. Others on the lineup include Jason Purnell, a health disparities researcher at Washington University, organic chemist Christina De Meo of SIUE, and Wes Browning, the former St. Louis meteorologist-in-charge for the National Weather Service. 

If you go:

March for Science – St. Louis
1 p.m. Saturday
Union Station
1801 Market Street
St. Louis
Details: http://marchforsciencestl.com/

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB