Katherine Mathieson, CEO, British Science Association

I’m always excited to see big groups of people talking about how science works, and the March for Science is no exception. Rallies and events in support of the scientific community will be happening in hundreds of locations all over the world on 22 April.

The movement started in the US and it’s clear that the aims come from scientists sceptical of the Trump administration’s ideas and track record. But the sentiment has spread quickly and gained support in the UK and many other countries.

According to the website, the March ‘champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.’ Organisers aim to ‘protect the rights of every person to engage with, learn from, and help shape science, free from manipulation by special interests’. They also want to support the use of scientific evidence in policy decision-making.

In the UK, science rightly gets a significant chunk of the Government's yearly spend and so, just like any other publicly funded activity, it should be open to outside ideas, feedback and criticism. Scientists have the opportunity to create huge changes in our society, and, as the March for Science website notes, it can be difficult to separate science from political pressures.

At the BSA, we agree that everyone should have the opportunity to learn about, question and influence science and the way that it works. 27% of UK adults identify as not being interested in science; they do not actively seek out science news or go to science events, and only 12% feel connected with science. We want to change this.

While, as an organisation, we are supportive of the BSA branches and BSA staff attending their local marches, we want to guard against the initiative being seen as self-interested. We believe that science is not just for scientists.

If a broader audience doesn’t feel compelled to go on the Marches, there is a risk that they could be perceived as scientists attempting to protect their position with the elites of society. Some of the media coverage in the States (articles such as ‘Scientists to oppose Donald Trump’ and ‘Scientists plan to march on Washington’) compounds this, conjuring up images of people holding test tubes and demanding fair access to centrifuges.

And, just as it is vital that everyone feels empowered to join in debates and discussion about the direction and use of research and evidence, it is also important that scientists are seen as citizens, with lives, families and interests outside of what they do in their professional day-to-day lives.

We hope that the marches on 22 April will be a catalyst for encouraging more people to think about the role of science in their life, and its capacity to change the world every day; but also an opportunity for scientists to reflect on their role in bridging the gap between science and society, in demonstrating the public benefit of their work, and in exploring ways for us all to work together to give people the confidence and opportunities to strengthen their influence over science’s direction and place in society.