March for Science in Brussels

April 22nd in Brussels: March for Science or March for EU politics ?

April 22nd was supposed to be a time for scientists and concerned citizens to come together to make themselves heard in solidarity with US scientists and against a devastating politics towards research in USA, European Union, and Belgium. Unfortunately, it won’t happen.

Held by lobbies and advisers for the EU Commission, the March for Science in Brussels turned itself into a festival promoting the European research program. Without any critical thinking about the current situation endured by researchers, endorsement or participation to the March would be nothing but the endorsement of the DG Research strategy , of the Member States, and of the Commission.

However, that strategy is far from satisfying. We observe a defunding of public research, and increasing competition among scientists, an increasing transfer of public funding to private sector research benefiting to big companies. Those short-sighted decisions weakened the fundamental research and led to precarious situations of young and non-permanent researchers. Science aims to better understand our world and to improve its inhabitant’s living conditions and should not pave the way for new super profits at the expense of citizens (including researchers) and terrestrial ecosystems.

In Belgium, the FNRS reports are clear: of the 23 goals for the period 2009-2014, three only have been reached, and 12 could even not be started just because of lack of funding. As one example, the numbers of post-doctoral researchers granted annually by the FNRS decreased since 2010, even though the numbers of (excellent) applicants exploded since 2009. Consequently, success rate fell from 40 to 22%. To reach his current goals, the FNRS would need more than 55 Million € (representing an increase of 37% of its public funds).

About the defunding of research, about the oligopoly of scientific publishers (40% of scientific publications are held by the 4 main publishers resulting in a privatisation of the knowledge), about the precarious situation of the researchers, about student debt, … nothing will be said at the April 22nd festival. Since the early stage of the discussion, the festival was endorsed by lobbies linked to the EU Commission e.g. Science|Business (bringing together research, industry, and politics), EU office such as EPSO, and MEPs from conservative and populist parties.

Technocratic think-tanks such as Sense About Science EU (“I love evidence” campaign) promote a business-based (or business-oriented) science in the name of a justified but rogue battle against obscurantism. Business-based science is far from its supposed neutrality. This strategy aims at manipulating science for a political and economic purpose, e.g. justifying seed-locked GMOs, pesticides, shale gas extraction, nuclear energy, or in a more critical field such as economics and social sciences. There nothing will be said about it on the 22nd of April . However, it is more than urgent to admit that sciences are not always used in a neutral way, resulting in the need of promoting independence in science. Independent from big companies and political pressures, and benefiting to the common goods and the citizens.

That was the main goal of the US March for Science. That event shows that scientists are not isolated from the society, but can participate to public debates. Make themselves heard became necessary when facing Trump administration who tries to keep silent research programs on climate change and on ecosystem protection. Therefore in Belgium, by avoiding to include researchers in the organisation of the event, by remaining deaf and blind to the researchers demands, the ScienceMarchBE kept them silent in support of the EU Commission and Parliament. It goes strictly against the original demands of the US scientists.

The “Climate & Social Justice” association tried to collaborate with the ScienceMarchBE organisers, and called to protest on April 22nd with the support of many scientists and social activists (see link). Unfortunately we cannot endorse this event anymore because we cannot agree with the hidden political strategy of the organisers, in support of EU Commission. Against Trump and his world, in solidarity with whistle-blower scientists working on fundamental problems concerning our life on Earth such as global warming and ecosystem protection, we want to make ourselves heard on April 29th in Brussels, day of the international People’s Climate March.

  • Increase funding for a public research that would be independent from big companies and their lobbies, through universities and public research centres;
  • Stop manipulating science for political and economic purposes;
  • Improve the precarious situation of researchers in Belgium and in Europe;
  • Stop the oligopoly of scientific publishers;
  • Create public spaces where researchers and citizens can meet and share their demands concerning scientific research.

Marijke Colle (biologist), Thibaut De Meulemeester (biologist), Pierre Gillis (physicist), Daniel Tanuro (agronomist), Francis Taylor (ecosocialist activist), Grégoire Wallenborn (physicist) for CLIMAT & JUSTICE SOCIALE.

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