You may have seen recently that there have been an increase in global marches (the Women’s March for example). Last Saturday the Sparks & Co team went to show our support for the sciences and science communication at the March for Science.
Camile, Ellie, Benoît (showing his angry marching face!), Emma and Vanmala at the Marche pour les sciences sporting “bespoke” t-shirts!
Why did we join the march?
We have already discussed why we are marching in a previous blog post, but we thought it would be good to show everyone how we got on during the day. When you think about it, this is another form of science communication, even if it is an extreme one! We believe that science should not be silenced and that scientists should publish and research the topics that can benefit all of humankind (within ethical limits of course). One example of research which is under threat is climate change research. 97% of scientists and numerous governmental organisations agree that the actions of people have contributed to the change of climate, yet research is still not take seriously and is sometimes silenced in the media. This is directly contrary to the ideals that we hold here in Sparks & Co:
While we are not an organisation involved in politics, there is an affront on science, scientists and their right to communicate. This is why we took our Saturday (our day off!) to march in Paris (though there are worse places we could be marching!)
Contributing to the march
Camille had the chance to deliver a speech (in French, keep a look out for our English translation!) in front of the whole march, estimated to be 5000 people, about the importance of science communication and why it should not be silenced. She was among other notable speakers including Annick Jacq, director of research at CNRS, Dominique Leglu, editorial director of La Recherche et Sciences et Avenir and Harold Vasselin, science author and Doctor in physics.
How does knowledge nourish society? The key word is integration….. We must have the power to discuss the doubts about science, not just the certainties
Harold Vasselin (translated from French)
The Organisation: an interview with Margaux Calon
Now we would like to say thanks to all the organisers of the event for their hard work and efforts. It really showed through the enjoyment had by everyone at the event, and all the hard work people had put into making signs and t-shirts!
We had the opportunity to ask on of the organisers: Margaux Calon, Science Communication Manager at the Institut des Systèmes Complexes CNRS, some questions about the march:
What interested you in the March for Science and how did you decide to play a part in organising it?
Since Donald Trump took office last January, I was very worried about the consequences of US administration’s antiscience position on research and science education and wondered what could be done. So when I heard that researchers in Washington were organizing a march to defend science, I felt relieved, that somehow feeling powerless wasn’t a fatality, that we could act upon this matter and get involved in raising people’s awareness about the threats on science. Because science, research and ecology were almost absent in our own presidential debates, I felt we should also organise a march in Paris to show our support to the researchers in US and trigger a debate on French research and science. I created a Facebook page “March for Science Paris” and realized some people in Twitter had done the same on a national level. We immediately got in touch and decided to organize ourselves in a “national committee”, composed of 7 members to make this march come true. Quickly after that, we got official supports, volunteers, media attention, visibility… the game was on! 😉
Was the attendance what you expected?
It was the attendance we hoped for! For a while, only a few hundred people registered to our Facebook event. The problem is that a significant portion of researchers do not use Facebook, and were reached directly through their institutions, hence we didn’t have a great visibility on the attendance [before the march]. So gathering more than 5000 people marching for science was a great great surprise! And an ideal attendance, as the little streets of the Quartier Latin couldn’t fit more than 5500 people. 5559 people to be precise, according to mapchecking.
Do you feel that you achieved the goal of the March?
Yes, absolutely; even before the March, we felt that our expectations where met : our message was conveyed in the media, supported and diffused by a very diverse panel of actors – heads of scientific institutes, science journalists and communicators, famous researchers, citizens… Thanks to the march, those people who do not necessarily interact in their everyday work life got to exchange their views and opinion. We underlined that this event was not only for and by researchers, and I think we managed to give a voice to the journalists, teachers, communicators and museum professionals that are also part of the science and research community. However, I’m not sure we managed to get the attention of the politicians, who were absent during the march namely because of the elections. It was one of our main goals, and we are still working on it, as the time between the two election polls is crucial to make our message heard. But the sure thing is that we had the ear of our very diverse community, and that is amazing.
Did you enjoy the March? Would you organise another event like this one again?
Of course, I really enjoyed the march, especially since there was absolutely no problems to report – scientists and science lovers are very peaceful and respectful demonstrators as it seems! Of course, as volunteers we had to deal with a million things at the same time – security, guests, logistics, supplies…- and couldn’t enjoy the animations, listen to the talks or even march and chat with the others. To us, it was more a “marathon” for science than a “march for science”! But seeing everyone happy, coming with their family, kids, banners, sometimes costumes, and mostly with their motivation was really rewarding. I am not sure my boss would allow me to organize me another event like this as in the end it was a full time job and I postponed my CNRS related deadlines, but sure, the movement is just raising, and there is still a million things left to do to spread our message and raise awareness.
What do you think this event means for science communication?
This event shows that a significant portion of the scientific community is more than willing to get out of its so-called “Ivory tower” to defend the idea that science belongs to everyone, and should be accessible to all. This march defended the idea that we need science to be recognized as a cultural good and shared as such, so that citizens can make informed decisions. And science communication done by professionals is one of the best way to popularize science.
How important a role does science communication have for scientists and citizens, in your opinion?
Science communication is the key to a greater dialogue between researchers, politicians, citizens, associations, teachers… A dialogue that is crucial if we want our societies to make collective informed decisions about our planet and our future. A science communicator is a translator that finds a common language and methodologies for every part in the discussion to understand each other, it is a mediator that has a great understanding of science and society’s issues and debates and to conclude, a science communicator and science communication in general create and animate for science and society to be able to think collaboratively: science fairs, blogs, conferences etc.
We’d like to thank Margaux for taking the time to answer our questions, especially after such a busy weekend!
Did you attend any marches? Do you think they are a good way to highlight an issue? Do you think science communication has an important role in society today? Leave us a comment below and tell us what you think!