Emphasizing the necessity and benefits of science and scientific research in both Birmingham and the state of Alabama
We aim to showcase the huge impact, both economical and social, that science has on our city and state. The city of Birmingham is host to a plethora of science-based institutions, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University Hospital Systems, and Southern Research. UAB alone substantially contributes to the economy of the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama. A 2010 study revealed that for every dollar of public funds invested in UAB, the university generates $16.23 in revenue. That same study showed that UAB generates $302.2 million for state and local governments and exerts a $4.6 BILLION dollar economic impact annually in the state. UAB is also one of the largest employers in the state, sustaining, either directly or indirectly, one in every 33 jobs held by an Alabamian (and 1 in 10 jobs in the Birmingham Metro area). By 2020, UAB’s economic impact is projected to reach $6.6 billion dollars and generate $431.4 million in state and local tax revenue. The core of UAB is its scientific research programs, which in 2014 brought in an astounding $225 million in grants and contracts. Without the university, the city of Birmingham and the state would suffer drastically.
In addition to the economic benefits of science, the citizens of Birmingham derive meaningful, enriching advantages from the fruits of scientific labor. Birmingham is known for many things, most of which can be traced back to science. The Vulcan statue is a celebration of the iron and steel industry that built this city – an industry that relied on the scientific advances that allowed steel and iron to become such huge parts of the national and global economies. The local breweries, a popular attraction among many of the adults in the area, each feature their own unique Birmingham-spirited drafts generated through the age old scientific process of fermentation. Some of the most favored family-centric activities in our city include visiting the the McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Zoo, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The McWane Science Center provides the public with a fun and effective means to engage children in inquiry-based learning opportunities, while simultaneously increasing science literacy among the citizenry of the city. The Birmingham Zoo exposes families to the wonders of the animal kingdom, inspiring the young and old alike to explore and travel, even if from within the safety of their own city. The leisurely walks through the natural world offered by the Birmingham Botanical Garden are a resource far too often underestimated, especially in the heart of such a bustling and booming city.
We at the Birmingham March for Science aim to emphasize these advantages, obtained through the fruits and labors of scientific research and progress, that make Birmingham so uniquely the Magic City.
Generate a public discourse about the nature of science and scientific research and the advantages given to a communities through science education and scientific research
Public perception of science, scientists, and scientific research has shifted recently. In the past, the public placed a great deal of trust in scientists. In the past decade or more, however, public support for evidence-based science and scientific education has waned. Divisive partisan rhetoric has certainly contributed to the declining levels of public trust and support for scientific research, but more damaging is the fact that scientists have, for far too long, remained on the sideline of public discourse. The inactive nature of scientists has allowed a narrative to be established that has dehumanized science and the humans that conduct it. The Birmingham March for Science proudly states that science is a human-derived process, conducted by humans, using a systematic approach to further the human understanding of the world in which we live.
One of our goals is to humanize science, to show the public that science is more than machines and test tubes. We aim to facilitate the interaction between the public at large and scientists that live and work in their community. We will host panels and discussions with local scientists, where the public can interact with them, question them, and come to the understanding that these scientists are their neighbors, not just strangers from a brick building in the heart of town. We also aim to illustrate how everyone can, and often do, act as citizen-scientists without even realizing it.
By humanizing scientists, we hope this will spark the next stage of communication between scientists and the public: namely, how this community-level science benefits the community it in which is it rooted. The importance of having community-supported scientific research is paramount. The citizens of Birmingham benefit directly from research conducted here, in Birmingham. Research at the Wallace Tumor Institute, for example, leads to new cancer treatments that citizens of Birmingham and Alabama benefit from. Research at Southern Research has generated life-saving drugs, while research done at UAB has generated new technologies and advancements in human understanding.
Accentuate the importance of fully funding scientific research and science education
By highlighting the previously mentioned benefits, it is our intention to emphasize the importance of community support for scientific research and scientific education. The community has the right to be involved in the research process, and the duty to support it. Public support and involvement in the scientific process is essential for the growth and flourishment of the community. Means by which the community can, and should, be involved include active consultation with the researchers on issues that need to be researched, funding support from the state and federal levels, and participation in the research process.
Most especially, however, community support and involvement must include the full support, funding, and investment in scientific education. None of the research done here in our community is possible without the scientific education provided from the earliest years of life all the way to and throughout adulthood. By fully supporting and investing in scientific education on a city and statewide level, we ensure that our communities will continue to reap the benefits and advantages of science and scientific research. We at the Birmingham March for Science firmly believe that supporting and investing in scientific education is a duty of any community, especially ours.
Promote public support for the development of science-backed public policy in Alabama and on the federal level
Public support and community involvement is an excellent start to improving our city and state. However, the necessity for public policy firmly rooted in scientific facts and data is paramount for the continuation of a democratic, stable society. The Birmingham March for Science proudly declares that we stand in support of public policy based on empirical, tested, and peer-reviewed scientific research alone.
The first, most crucial step in developing public policies based on scientific evidence is ensuring the universal availability of scientific research. To that end, we at the Birmingham March for Science emphasize the importance of free, uncensored, communication of rigorously tested and peer-reviewed scientific research between researchers and the public. Scientific researchers must be allowed unlimited, uncensored communication to and from the public. Scientific data is apolitical. Scientific facts are facts. The researchers who discover these facts must be free to communicate them to the public without impairment or fear of being reprimanded. Any injunction on this freedom of communication, no matter how brief, is an attack on the public interest and should be opposed as such. Likewise, it is the duty of scientists to ensure that the research they are communicating to the public is rigorously tested and verified by peer-review.
Furthermore, we declare that funding for scientific research must be contingent on the nature and quality of the empirical research being conducted and not on the political misrepresentation of the data produced or industrial opposition. Political misrepresentations and inappropriate interpretations have been allowed to blacken the reputation of empirical scientific evidence. It is necessary that public policy be based on scientific research and not the other way around. Politicians must be held accountable by scientists and their communities, which is why the need for researcher-community interactions is so crucial to the development of our democracy. Likewise, opposition from industries unwilling to implement changes based on scientific data has been allowed to stagnate the progress of our society. Opposition from industries to scientific data must not be allowed to impede the development of public policies based on scientific research. The development of public policy based on scientific evidence will generate greater industrial strength overall, resulting in superior benefits to our community and the public at large.