'We need to stand in solidarity': A Montreal doctor on why she's marching for science

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'We need to stand in solidarity': A Montreal doctor on why she's marching for science

'We need to stand in solidarity': A Montreal doctor on why she's marching for science

Don't let science go extinct: that's the message scientists and supporters will be sending today at the first March for Science in Montreal.

The idea is to encourage both the public and politicians to embrace science and science-based policies. It's the first march of its kind after American scientists vowed to mark Earth Day by protesting against U.S. President Donald Trump's stance on climate change and on science.

Science is something that Dr. Koren Mann, the director of the molecular and regenerative medicine axis at the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, said is currently at risk — especially so south of the border.

"We need to stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the U.S. who are facing a lot of decreases in funding, and a lot of muzzling of scientific information, and policy not being directed by scientific interests," Mann told CBC Montreal's Daybreak. "They're definitely nervous."

The demonstration in Montreal is among dozens of marches that will be taking place internationally.

Mann said she's not much of a protester herself, having only attended one or two marches in her life.

"For a long time scientists thought that standing up for any political bend would be biased," she explained. "So it goes a little against our nature, but I think this one's important."

Science in the public eye

One of the issues is getting the public involved and invested in scientific endeavours, said Mann.

"We're losing track, in general, as a population, of utilizing scientific knowledge to make decisions," Mann said. "And I think that's an important idea and that's probably global."

She conceded that part of the problem is scientists's difficulty in engaging with the community and explaining their research, but added that "the public also needs to get involved" in order to defend science.

"We need to have a science-literate public so that they understand what choices they're making when they vote," she said.

Mann noted that Canadian scientists had their own period of difficulty recently, citing former prime minister Stephen Harper government's policies as an example.

"We've come out of a period of that and so I think we have a lot to add," she said. "There was less of an emphasis placed on (science) then."

Family encouragement

Mann will not be walking alone. Her daughter will be with her, celebrating her 14th birthday on the marching route.

"She's excited," Mann said. "We're taking the whole birthday party along."

While Mann acknowledges that part of it is probably her daughter wanting to support her, she said her daughter — and many her age — are eager and willing to defend the scientific community.

"Girls these days, they're excited, they're embracing the STEM science technologies," Mann said. "And they're not afraid of it. That's fabulous, and we should definitely encourage that."