Pittsburgh March for Science


Elena Hochheiser, Editor-in-chief

“Science > Politics”. “There is no planet B”. “Remember that time you had Polio? Oh wait, you don’t, because of science”. These were only a few of the excellent and inspiring signs that graced the streets of Oakland earlier today at Pittsburgh’s March for Science.

The March for Science was first brought up as an idea in January, after many saw the outstanding attendance to the Women’s March in Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and all around the nation, and the idea really took hold (especially in Pittsburgh) after President Trump released his new budget plans, which included yet another cut to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), the largest organization for nation- and world-wide science funding. Not surprisingly, many scientists– and ordinary citizens– were upset. Today, over ~2,000 Pittsburgh citizens took to the streets to protest the budget cuts, the increasingly obvious denial of scientific facts by the new President and his organization, and so much more. It was incredible to see how many persons showed up to lend their support, and so gratifying to see the interest that young people especially had in the speeches given by scientists all over the Pittsburgh area and the topic itself. There were also several tents/booths set up by science organizations all over the Pittsburgh area, and different groups/institutions represented from all over.

At the march, I also had the honor of getting to hear my mom, a bio-medical researcher at the Magee-Womens Research Institute of Pittsburgh, speak. Although I’m not one to pursue a career in the sciences, as those close to me know, my mom has always been passionate about what she studies, and she, along with my dad, grandfather, and other scientists in the family, has kindled a deep interest in me to learn more about the world and support the sciences, especially scientific funding. In her speech, she compared the cost of scientific funding at her work, MWRI, and to the NIH in general, to the cost of fighter planes and jets. As she said, “To put it in perspective: two years of research funding at MWRI alone is equivalent to the cost of a single F15 fighter jet. The National Institutes of Health budget, $30 billion/year, is less than the cost of 3 aircraft carriers.” In her rough draft, she also wrote that “for every dollar spent by the NIH, $2.21 are returned to the economy”. That is an additional $3.63 billion dollars flowing into our economy from the work that is being done by scientists around the nation. And that doesn’t even factor in the overall benefits from society that have occurred because of the work of scientists.

Think about your modern-day life. Everyday, you use your cell phone, toilet, light bulbs, front door, car, pen or pencil. Every single one of those things has been developed and improved by science. Today at the March for Science, we as a community showed our support for science, and I hope we continue to do so after today is over.

In short, today we marched because science is an integral part of our lives that we need to protect. As Councilman Dan Gilman put it, “I think it’s sad that we have to have a science march in 2017. But I think it’s heartwarming to see so many thousands come out to realize that so many issues that face Pittsburgh are what the rest of the world faces, from Climate change on down, and to not put facts first– to but politics first– not only jeopardizes our health today, but ruins opportunities for future generations.”