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In Support of Science

Earth Day in Washington, D.C., was cool and rainy, but it did not dampen the spirits of thousands of scientists, students and supporters of science marching from the Washington Monument to the Capitol. Joined by an energetic group of colleagues, plus American Lung Association volunteers and friends, we assembled early Saturday morning and made our way to the March for Science rally.

We entered the Washington Monument grounds after queueing up next to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I thought about all of the great scientists our nation has produced – George Washington Carver, Benjamin Banneker, Charles Drew, Neil de Grasse Tyson and the women of Hidden Figures - Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

The large crowd filled the area in front of the stage, so my group staked out a spot near a large video screen. The crowd favorite and undisputed hero of the March for Science was Bill Nye. We also watched Questlove, Maya Lin, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Dr. Georges Benjamin, Denis Hayes and others speak. For those of us who were in high school in the early ‘80s, Thomas Dolby performing "She Blinded Me with Science" was a highlight, as I sang along, horribly off key.

Standing at the foot of the Washington Monument, I thought about the coming together that helped launch the first Earth Day in 1970 and my own efforts in 1990 working for the National Clean Air Coalition gathering signatures to support the Clean Air Act Amendments on the 20th Earth Day. Both of those events helped support passage of the Clean Air Act and Clean Air Act Amendments with overwhelming bipartisan support.

So how has our nation gotten to a point where we have to march to defend science and oppose efforts to cut the budgets of our nation's scientific agencies – National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more? Like many things in Washington, it is complicated but it shouldn't be. I know the overwhelming majority of people oppose these cuts. I carried a sign that simply read, "Science Not Fiction." Facts must matter.

I have been honored to work for a science-based organization - the American Lung Association - for more than 25 years. We joined the March for Science, in Washington, D.C., and other locations across the country, to support sound science.

As we walked down Constitution Avenue and passed the Museum of American History, the EPA, the Museum of Natural History, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art, we celebrated the accomplishments of our nation and reminded the world that science is the only hope for a healthier future.

The American Lung Association is doing more than marching. We are advocating. We sent this letter to Congress that makes the Lung Association's position on science clear. It urges Congress to embrace these core principles to guide the development of federal policy:

  • Federal agencies must continue to make decisions based on peer-reviewed science
  • Scientific data should not be subject to political editing
  • Public access to science-based information is vital
  • Patient privacy must continue to be protected
  • Public funding of science is essential

The Lung Association is fighting to ensure that science remains the basis for protective regulations and government policies, including those required under the Clean Air Act, Tobacco Control Act and other public health laws. We're also committed to continuing to use sound science as the basis for our organization's own work. Our 2017 "State of the Air" report, released on April 19, is an example of how we use solid science to advocate for public policy change. The report relies on both quality-assured air pollution data from monitors across the country and solid, peer-reviewed science about the health effects of air pollution to make the case for supporting the Clean Air Act and its decades-long success at cleaning up our air.

In fact, science touches our mission in every way, from the scientific consensus that proves there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, to the decades of data that show vaccines are safe and effective for preventing diseases like influenza and pneumonia, to the knowledge that climate change is impacting our health right now. Just as we rely on science, we also ensure that our own research is sound. We make sure that our research applicants undergo a rigorous review process, and that their work adheres to the highest scientific standards. In this way, our contributions to medical knowledge and practice are sound, trusted and beneficial to patients.

Just like the March for Science, the American Lung Association calls on public leaders to utilize evidence-based science to create policies for the public good, and especially, the public health.

You can help! Two quick ways for you to raise your voice to support sound science: first, send a message to decision-makers in Washington urging them to protect science-based safeguards from air pollution. And second, if you're on Twitter, tweet using the hashtag #DefendScience to join the conversation. Help us defend science and make sure public policy is grounded in solid science, and really protects our health.

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Related Topic: Science

  • Paul Billings
    National Senior Vice President, Advocacy
    Paul Billings is the Senior Vice President Advocacy for the American Lung Association.

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