What are we marching for? (#MarchforScience, in Berlin and Paris)

The Marches for Science are gaining momentum all over Europe now. While it is still not easy to predict what the 22nd of April will actually look like, it is interesting to see how each country or city gives their interpretation of the meaning of the March for Science. For me as a researcher moving between Germany and France, the differences between what comes from France and what I experience in Berlin are palpable, but the initiatives all have a common ground behind their national or local specificities.

In France, researchers’ protests have a long tradition. As soon as the early 2000s, “Let’s save research” (Sauvons la Recherche) was very well organized and disseminating all over the country. With funding shortages and less and less permanent positions every year (while student figures still keep going up), this movement has rather gained traction than become obsolete. Long before the “March for Science” emerged, there were “marching Sciences” in France – a movement in which researchers took a trip through France and organized meetings, talks and discussions in different cities, aiming at making the importance of knowledge and science clearer to all interested participants. The idea of offering a more direct connection between the civil society and the world of research was already strongly present in this initiative. The new initiative, in connection with the US and the other worldwide ones, carries a slightly different, albeit very similar name: “March for the Sciences“. This is certainly one first thing to underline here: both names state that there is not one big science, but rather a plurality of sciences that matter. I tend to consider this as a way to emphasize how sciences that may not seem to be sciences at first (not hard sciences, but the Humanities) actually matter just as much. The French call of the March for the Sciences insists on the fact that it is not simply the attitude of the Trump administration towards science that is worrisome, but more generally the discredit in which science is being held as well as the French research policies of the last decades. The French March is a “marche citoyenne”, a march in which citizens and researchers, together, shall assert the value of facts, the importance of fundamental research, and effectively counter recent positions of politicians on national history or clean motors, that were harshly criticized by scientists from all disciplines.

The March for Science in Berlin, in which I have the pleasure and honour to be involved, insists in its Mission Statement on the threat that populism poses on North America as well as on Europe. It too emphasizes the importance of the Marchas a way to contribute to a better dialog between the world of science and the civil society rather than the March being solely a protest action. Raising awareness is certainly one of the core challenges of the Marches for Science on April 22nd. And to reach that aim, all are welcome: not only professional scientists, but all those who value scientific knowledge. Contact us at sciencemarchberlin@gmail.com!

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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