‘I like big brains and I cannot lie’

April 2017

Start of the March for Science in San Diego on April 22, 2017.

This past Saturday I joined 15,000 others in San Diego for the March for Science, an event that emphasized support for science and evidence-based policymaking. It was billed as “adamantly nonpartisan,” but in today’s polemical climate, it is increasingly hard to appear politics-neutral. And, let’s face it, there wouldn’t have been the need for Saturday’s worldwide march if federal funding for environmental protections and scientific research wasn’t imperiled.

As a business owner and editorial director, I work with people of all political persuasions and respect their views, even if I might not agree with them. My decades as a journalist taught me to see an issue from different angles and know there are at least three sides to every story: what he said, what she said, and what really happened.

Our clients create products and services that often are rooted in science. And those I work with directly are passionate about improving lives through their offerings. They manufacture safe, durable medical mounting solutions to keep patients safe and infection-free; they arm cybersecurity professionals with the skills to stop digital criminals from stealing; they create algorithms that reduce company waste and programs to reduce environmental pollution.

I love working with scientists because their passion is pure and their mission is always clear. They welcome peer review, which serves as the checks and balances on “alternative facts.” They are, however, often shy about their accomplishments, which is why so many of us turned out in 600 cities around the globe to provide them a bigger bullhorn.

I admit I was a little nervous, having heard about how peaceful demonstrations go badly when rogue groups with no connection to the cause show up. But the San Diego crowd, like those around the country, gave organizers what they wanted: a positive movement and family-friendly platform to remind the world how important science is to society.

That didn’t happen by chance. Our local group stressed at every opportunity for everyone to follow the “Golden Rules of Messaging.” I thought I’d share those rules, as they appeared on the group’s website:

1. Positive: Show what we are for, not what you are against.
2. Personal: What does science mean to you? How does science make your everyday life better, or how are you saving the world with science?
3. In-law test: If you show this to family and friends with different views on other issues, would they be more likely or less likely to join your support of science?
4. 8-year-old test: Does this message make an 8-year-old say, “cool”?

I was amazed at the creativity and perhaps critical restraint shown on our march. Sure, signs reminded a certain someone that “No science. No Twitter.” And, in honor of Earth Day, some played up climate change data [“The oceans are rising and so are we!”] and the need to act now [“So bad, even introverts showed up.”]

If I ever do this again, I think I’ll steal one woman’s idea and create a poster with symbols of some major scientific accomplishments—space exploration, disease eradication, the internet, cancer treatments. Above it, it’ll say: “Big fan of your work.”