Ubyssey Science's guide to fighting for science locally

Sometimes a tweet hits home:

Scientists around the world — myself included — have been late to lab meetings, classes and social commitments because we’re reacting with abject horror to Donald Trump’s first six weeks as president of the United States. Crucially, we should all remember that a shocked reaction is the first step towards resistance. 

Here’s how Trump has attacked science — first, he named climate change denier Scott Pruitt as his pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Later, the White House website’s climate change page was removed and a page promoting oil drilling has been posted. EPA employees were banned from speaking to the public and their fact-based tweets were deleted. Trump issued an immigration ban on seven Muslim countries and reports on research careers being “thrown into chaos” are widespread. Doubts of the US’s commitment to protection for the intellectual community loom large. 

And most recently — with the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary — Trump continues forward with an anti-science cabinet

Here at UBC, science students can seem relatively unaffected. We’re in Canada, a different country and a refuge where climate change data is being archived for protection.

But if Trump’s actions in the past few weeks have taught us anything, it is that science is quite vulnerable to naysayers. Remember Stephen Harper? If we are to come together as a community in defence of science, we need to understand what’s wrong and work locally for change. 

Here is a list of what’s wrong with science, limited to issues that UBC students can directly counter.

What’s wrong? The gender divide. 

As few as 11 per cent of full science professors are female. UBC’s faculty of science is working hard to address the gender divide in science, but it remains.

What you can do

Support one of the dozens of organizations that promote women in STEM. Volunteer, donate or attend an event.

What’s wrong? Communication.

Scientists want to engage with the public, but there is still a gap in knowledge

What you can do

Participate in outreach opportunities! Here’s one. And another. There are tons! Even tweeting can make a difference.

What’s wrong? The replication crisis.

Many scientific studies are impossible to replicate. If someone discovers a phenomena but never sees it again, the first time it was observed was probably a fluke. This becomes important in medical and psychological therapies, for example, where accepting a fluke as real could result in harm to patients.

What you can do

Often undergraduate research involves replicating studies — this is important work. Get involved with research at UBC as an undergrad.

What’s wrong? Glamour journals. 

Researchers want to publish in “glamorous” journals like Science and Nature. But these journals have been criticized for publishing on hot topics instead of important ones due to prestige-based publishing schemes, and for hiding their studies behind a pay-wall that makes it hard to access scientific studies.

What you can do

As a UBC student, you have access to peer-reviewed journals. Set up your Google Scholar account to link with the UBC library system. Read studies beyond the ones in the “glamour journals,” and don’t hold Science and Nature on a pedestal. Even publications in these journals can be erroneous and lead to retraction

What’s wrong? Not enough data sharing. 

Raw data is often not shared, contributing to the problems of research replication and accessibility.

What you can do

Use open data to show your support of the movement! Be a “citizen scientist” by doing science online with publicly available data. Learn how to share your own data after you’ve collected it.

What’s wrong? Silos of knowledge. 

Scientific knowledge is often limited to its sub-discipline, and interdisciplinary researchers struggle for recognition.

What you can do

Work to integrate existing knowledge instead of trying to discover something new.

What’s wrong? Outdated theories.

Revolutions in thought are important for scientific progress and there are many theories that experts believe should be laid to rest.

What you can do

Stay informed and critically question what you are told. Pay attention to where you get your information — are they evidence-based sources? The Ubyssey science staff likes Nature, The Atlantic, Wired and Nautil.us. We also read books (gasp!). Or watch YouTube channels like Veritasium, AsapSCIENCE, Minute Physics, SciShow, etc.