Partners Again: Sigma Xi and the March for Science

by Jamie Vernon | Mar 20, 2018

Columbia Willamette Chapter membersIn 25 days, thousands of people will don science-y t-shirts and create clever signs to take to the streets and show their support for a topic we all deeply care about: science. For a second consecutive year, the March for Science is scheduled to take place in townships and villages around the world, mostly on April 14. The nonpartisan message once again will be to promote “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” We’re already hearing that Sigma Xi members and chapters worldwide are joining the cause.

The March for Science represents a rare opportunity for scientists and non-scientists to come together to celebrate the benefits of scientific research. For organizations like Sigma Xi, there is no comparable demonstration of public support for our mission than this event. Sigma Xi members are committed to improving the human condition through science and engineering. By participating in the march, we can break down the barriers between science and society, connect with the people who rely on our work, and demonstrate our shared values.

An amazing feature of this event is that most participants in the march will not be scientists. The vast majority will be everyday citizens who recognize the ways science has improved their lives. There will be parents whose children’s lives have been saved through medical breakthroughs, workers whose jobs have been made safer through hazard prevention studies, farmers whose crop yields have been improved through the use of planting and harvesting data, and fishermen whose livelihoods have been preserved through fisheries management. These attendees and thousands more will be calling for policymakers to support investments in, and the use of, scientific research to solve global problems.

At a time when the tension between science and government is high, when scientists are being marginalized, and when scientific evidence is being treated as an inconvenience by many policymakers, it has become a necessity for those who support science to speak up. In the United States, where science helped win the Cold War, resolved the human genome, and created unrivaled economic prosperity, it is bewildering to witness the effects of politicization on the modern research enterprise. What is Sigma Xi’s role in this environment?

When gun violence has become a mainstay in the daily news, the federal government has restricted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  from investigating ways to reduce gun deaths. While carbon dioxide levels along with temperatures continue to rise, the words “climate change” are being erased from federal websites and agency reports. As opioid addiction devastates large swaths of the population, research funding for next generation pain relievers is threatened by partisan gridlock and budget fights. We can no longer be bystanders.   

Sigma Xi is a leader in recognizing talent in all areas of research. However, awards and accolades ring hollow when the fruits of our labor are left to languish on the vine. Our efforts to recruit young people into STEM fields have little meaning if we do not advocate for their work to be valued on its merits and, when appropriate, used to address our greatest challenges.

For these reasons, Sigma Xi will once again partner with the March for Science. We encourage all of our members, affiliates, and explorers to join with their local organizers to participate in rallies and marches. Find a march near you by using the event locator.

As we did last year, we are offering fiscal sponsorship to satellite marches organized with Sigma Xi members that need support collecting and distributing tax deductible donations to run their events. We also support Sigma Xi members, affiliates, and explorers who volunteer to speak, to organize teach-in tents, to create signs, and to promote Sigma Xi at their local rallies. As always, we ask that you do these things while maintaining and demonstrating the values of Sigma Xi, which include objectivity, integrity, inclusivity, accessibility, and importantly zealous companionship.

Contact us at for ideas about how to get involved.

Have a great march!     

Jamie Vernon Signature

Jamie L. Vernon, PhD
Executive Director and CEO
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
Publisher of American Scientist 

Photo caption: Members of the Columbia-Willamette Sigma Xi Chapter in Portland, Oregon, participated in a community science expo in conjunction with the 2017 March for Science. 

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