Writers and Scientists, Saving the Future

By Carl Slaughter: Scientists and science fiction writers speak out on Trump, science, climate change, and environmental responsibility.

Getting warmer. Sci-fi writers sound off about climate change — “We Asked Sci-Fi Writers About The Future Of Climate Change”.

Jeff VanderMeer, Lidia Yuknavitch and others discuss solutions to the urgent problem.

Voting with their feet. Will they or won’t they? “Update: Some 100 groups have now endorsed the March for Science”.

The March for Science, set for 22 April, is creating a buzz in the scientific community. The march arose as a grassroots reaction to concerns about the conduct of science under President Donald Trump. And it has spurred debate over whether it will help boost public support for research, or make scientists look like another special interest group, adding to political polarization.

Leaders of many scientific societies have been mulling whether to formally endorse or take a role in the event, which will include marches in Washington, D.C. and some 400 other locations.

Pinning it down. Some will be wearing a special decoration: “These pins defend scientists and science in the Trump era”.

The couple behind the pins that said “I love you” in American Sign Language, made for the Women’s March in January, are back with a new pin raising money for science and research.

Ahead of the “March for Science” on April 22 in Washington, D.C. and all over the world, Kate Lind and Nate Stevens of Pincause designed a new pin with illustrator Penelope Dullaghan. This one says “Science not silence,” with a rocket ship launching into space.

“This is a critical time for not just the science community, but for humanity and our planet. Staying silent is no longer an option,” Lind said in an email.

What’s at risk. What science will be sliced from the budget? “Trump wants to cut billions from the NIH. This is what we’ll miss out on if he does”.

The Trump administration wants to cut billions of dollars from funding biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health. It’s unclear if it will be able to, considering how funding for cancer, diabetes, and other disease research tends to have bipartisan consensus, and many prominent Republicans in Congress are opposing the cuts.

The White House has suggested the size of the agency’s budget — roughly $32 billion in 2016 — is the problem. “Only in Washington do you literally judge the success of something by how much money you throw at the problem, not actually whether it’s solving the problem or coming up with anything,” Sean Spicer, President Trump’s press secretary, said in March, defending the proposed cuts of $6 billion to the 2018 budget. (There’s also talk of slashing $1.2 billion from NIH research grants this year.)

Bu we can judge the success of the NIH by measures other than the amount of money being spent at it. Because for decades scientists have been studying a version of this question: “What does public spending on biomedical research actually buy us?”

A lot, it turns out. So let’s run through some of the evidence…

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