Guest opinion: Science serves the Roaring Fork Valley
March 31, 2017
The continual advancement of scientific research and development has paved the way for every one of our basic needs — healthy food, shelter, clean air and water — and is equally responsible for every convenience and necessity you can name, from your smartphone to prescribed medication.
Specifically, we are talking about publicly funded scientific research; scientific discovery occurring through public agencies and universities. Tremendous benefit comes out of a small non-defense budget line item that averages less than 2 percent of our federal budget over the last 30 years. According to the National Science Foundation, 29 percent of federal research money goes to universities, 29 percent goes to industry and another 29 percent goes to researchers who work directly for federal agencies. About 10 percent goes to federally funded labs operated by private contractors.
As an example, Google was founded by two Stanford Ph.D. students who were supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.
For Google to even exist, it required a platform we call the internet, which was developed with money from the Department of Defense's DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and the National Science Foundation, and it was based on research conducted at MIT, UCLA and other academic laboratories.
Our valley is also a clear beneficiary of these investments. Publicly funded research has shaped the way we sustainably manage public lands, fish and wildlife. It has led to huge advances in alternative energy sources, lifesaving medical treatments, and more efficient and clean transportation, to name a few.
Science serves our community, but scientists' ability to do vital work that benefits all of us is under threat. Funding for federal agencies and associated scientific research is proposed for drastic cuts, and peer-reviewed scientific findings are being intentionally disregarded or undermined with campaigns of false doubt.
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In response to these threats and to the advancement of credible science, the scientific community has finally decided to speak up by organizing a March for Science in Washington, D.C., on April 22, Earth Day. Since the march was announced, more than 400 local March for Science events all around the world have been organized.
Aspen is one of the communities that will host a gathering to support science. We will be part of the largest grassroots movement for science ever seen.
But these events aren't just for scientists; they're for everyone who loves and appreciates the role science plays in our lives, and for everyone who wants to strengthen scientists' ability to serve our communities and environment.
Join the March for Science and Earth Day Celebration in Aspen. The event begins at 1 p.m. in Paepcke Park and will include a peaceful march through town, followed by a gathering in the park with displays by local organizations and featured speakers. Come and celebrate the amazing science-based organizations and people in the valley that we too often take for granted, from schools to health-care providers, from local, state and federal agencies to private consulting firms, including our rich assortment of local science education and outreach organizations.
We urge everyone to march with us, stand up for science, and ensure a better future for our community and our world.
See you in Aspen on Saturday, April 22. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/MarchforScienceAspen/.
Mark Weinhold is a hydrologist and civil engineer who lives in Carbondale.