Sciences en Marche: cycling to alert the public on the urge to support sciences

France is well known for its strikes and protests. “Sciences en Marche” experiences a new kind of demonstration. During 3 weeks, from September 26th to October 18th, researchers, faculty members, technical staff and all people concerned by the future of sciences in France will relay from all main French town toward Paris. The march, indeed on bicycles (France is pretty big), aims at explaining to the public, in each town it crosses, the importance of sciences in our society and the need to invest there, even in a period of economic crisis. In parallel to the “Fête de la Science” that takes place every year to promote sciences, “Sciences en Marche” wants to shed light on the difficulties, which the labs and universities are facing, an issue generally not well understood by the public.

“Sciences en Marche” kicked off at the emblematic Pic du Midi observatory on September 26 with a walk down the valley followed by a 3 days ride to Toulouse. The day after, it was Marseille’s turn to start the race to Paris from their famous “Vieux Port”. Then, more than 200 cyclists left Montpellier, the city where the movement was initiated three months earlier. The rhythm was given. Major university cities (Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Nice, Grenoble and Lyon) already joined this demonstration of a new kind and many others will start soon. Altogether, 25 cities constituted local committees and participate to the organization of the demonstration. The march will continue its way from town to town (around 50 km stages) to Paris. Meetings, conferences, scientific animations are organized to meet with the public, even in small towns with no labs or universities. The public is also encouraged to participate to the march by offering housing to the cyclists. In addition to the cycling, other symbolic marches will be organized: climbing the Puy de Dome in Auvergne, kayaking in Roscoff (Brittany) or sailing in Brittany.

“Sciences en Marche” has received support from many universities (17 to date, including heavyweights such as the University of Strasbourg, and the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris), laboratories (130), scientific councils and learned societies as well as numerous scientific personalities (including Jules Hoffmann, nobel prize winner and Arthur Avila, Fields Medal). More supports are coming everyday as the march moves on. Unions as well as some political parties also gave their support to “Sciences en Marche”. Finally, our website gathers more than 4000 signatures supporting our action. The media are following this demonstration with attention. The local press has been present everywhere and national, as well as international media are relaying both the progress of the cyclists, and the goals and demands of “Sciences en Marche”.

The march will end in Paris on October 17th. The cyclist coming from the South, West, Est sides of France will meet at the Portes d’Orléans. Then they will be joined by Parisians and will walk (starting at 15h) towards the Assembly to bring their demands to the deputies. A letter to the French President will also be sent, asking for an audience.

Guillaume Bossis

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