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An Organizer Speaks About Reasons For A 'March For Science'


In the streets of cities around the world today, Marches for Science. Demonstrations have been organized in oil towns like Oklahoma City and Brazil, in Ghana, even at the North Pole. Lucky Tran helped plan them. He has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and he works at the medical school at Columbia University. He'll be taking part in what is expected to be the biggest march here in Washington today.

Lucky Tran, welcome to the program.

LUCKY TRAN: Thank you very much.

KELLY: What is the mission of this March for Science?

TRAN: I think the profession of science is under attack. And why is that happening? Because we've really ceded the floor. We haven't engaged in politics. We've left that open for politicians to come in and really hijack and obfuscate science for their own selfish needs.

KELLY: When you say that science is under attack, to what degree should we read this march as a protest against Trump administration policies?

TRAN: I think it's really important to say that scientists are really late to the party. Science has been under attack for a long time. And really, what's happened is that scientists are scared to engage with politics. They're worried about looking biased. They're worried about their funding. But really that's been a terrible strategy. It's meant that bad science policy decisions have been made.

KELLY: But would you be holding this march, do you think, if it were President Hillary Clinton in the White House?

TRAN: I think there is a catalyst in seeing how intense the attacks are right now. We have to acknowledge that, yes.

KELLY: Are there specific goals you all are trying to achieve in terms of advancing one policy or another?

TRAN: Yeah. So the overarching mission is really to support science for the public good. I think it's really important to say that when politicians attack science, it's not necessarily across the board. It's certain types of science. So if you look at climate change or public health, they're under attack from certain groups because, you know, they involve regulation or some businesses have an interest in them or there's some political thing to be gained for them. And so what we will be doing after the march is putting out a policy platform on all of these specific areas.

KELLY: Is that a little like herding cats? I mean, I'm guessing the scientific community (laughter), like any other, is hardly monolithic in what it thinks is the way forward.

TRAN: Well, this is what we have to do. Right? So if, at the end of the day, we get bogged down in research grants, we get bogged down in having to write the next paper - but we do science 'cause we care about improving society. And if that's what it takes for us to really, you know, bring all of these diverse voices into the room and figure out, you know, how we can be unified and how we can be a political force, that's where we're at at the moment. And we're going to push for that hard after the march.

KELLY: That's Lucky Tran. He is one of the scientists taking part in the March for Science, which is unfolding today, Earth Day, here in Washington and around the world. Lucky Tran, thank you.

TRAN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.