CityWatch Exclusive: Alex Bradley, LA’s March for Science Lead Organizer, Speaks Out

LOS ANGELES

RESISTANCE CALENDAR--Since November 8, activists have been mobilizing to get in front of Donald J. Trump’s agenda. We’re working to put out fires on so many different fronts, civil rights, immigrant rights, health care, the environment. We’re writing postcards, making phone calls, sharing information via social media. We’re attending town hall meetings in far greater numbers than before. March 8 will be A Day Without A Woman, following the lead of the Day without Immigrants.  

On April 22 from 9 AM to 4 PM, over 50,000 are expected to participate in the March for Science starting at Pershing Square, which has become Ground Zero for such activity in our city. LA’s March is one of over 300 independent satellite marches for the national March for Science in Washington, DC happening the same day. The LA March will also feature a science and technology expo. 

According to the umbrella website, the mission of The March for Science is to “champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.” 

While sharing the overall goals of the umbrella March, the March for Science Los Angeles also asserts the diversity of scientists in Southern California, a crucial driver of economic growth, protector of resources, and important to the health of the region’s citizen. 

The LA March organizers are a team of more than fifty volunteer with diverse backgrounds and expertise, from organic chemistry to business, all concerned about the increasing mistrust in science and applying evidence to policy decisions, as well as the growing lack of transparency in federally-funded research communications.

I sat down with March for Science LA lead organizer Alex Bradley to talk about the March and the importance of safeguarding scientific research for all of us. Bradley, a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology at UCLA, shared how he got involved in the LA satellite march, which is expected to be among the largest worldwide. 

Around the time the national group was getting support, I was at lunch with a friend, discussing how uncertain the funding climate was for science. I was frustrated by the recent changes in the way science was perceived by the public. It seemed like my friend didn’t find this too interesting -- he was looking at his phone. It turned out he had received an invitation to join the National DC Group’s Facebook page from a friend in biotech in San Diego. It looked like we were going to have a Science March.  It struck me as an opportunity to play a role in understanding the role of science. I was tired of not standing up to do something. -- Alex Bradley 

Bradley adds that members of the scientific community connected early on, despite not knowing each other before but were on the same page quickly. “We synergized well with our skills and were honest about our failures along the way. Jennifer Wheeler, Program Director of the Los Angeles March and her husband were a “formidable organizing force,” says Bradley, coordinating with over fifty people working on various committees as a “well-oiled machine.” 

Stakeholders use a communal Slack platform and private channels for local and global efforts. Designers across the world bounce ideas for logistics, fundraising. “Lots of us spearheading don’t have event planning experience so we’ve had to rely on experts in their respective fields. Lots of people who are great at their jobs are volunteering their time. It’s awesome to watch,” adds Bradley. 

What motivated the group to commit themselves to this mission? “Our primary goal is to emphasize science in driving policy decisions. We want to drive that home. We’re concerned that there’s been this trend that the pursuit of ideological agenda is superseding the appreciation for scientific fact in the interest of environment and public health. We want to reverse that trend,” says Bradley. 

Current crowd estimates are based off people who have expressed interest and the word of the march has spread by word of mouth and social media. The stakeholders are starting to establish an infrastructure that will include ambassadors representing various communities to further spread awareness. Ambassadors will be provided with resource packets, fliers, and other tools. Bradley hopes to drive people to the March’s website and Facebook page. “Once people have read our mission statement and our core values, it’s hard not to want to be part of this,” he says. 

Amazingly, I think maybe 10 percent of the team are scientists. The vast majority are non-scientists. Science is an integral part of all of our lives, embracing the purest of truths. We are also humanizing scientists. We’re notoriously good at distancing ourselves from the layperson, which we don’t intend to do. The fact that we use terms like “layperson” suggests elitism. I think all the scientists I’ve spoken to in academia recognize that the public plays an integral part. It’s not us and them. It’s all of us together embracing the pursuit of truth. 

There’s a systemic mistrust or misunderstanding of science and we need to work from the ground up to educate the public on what science is and how valuable science is to society. It’s a beautiful thing. We need well-rounded STEM education and this is the first step in that effort. 

Science is not a belief system. You can have a religious belief system -- whatever compels you to have faith is your individual experience. Science is something we all participate in. It’s not an opinion of whether you’re inhaling oxygen. It’s a scientific fact. It’s really important that children are able to make that distinction. 

The March for Science Los Angeles is likely to be the largest number of pro-science advocates ever assembled. We’ve never felt the need before. This will be a monumental occasion. -- Alex Bradley 

NEED TO KNOW: 

Visit the March for Science LA website for more information about the March and how you can help. Companies and organizations interested in endorsing or financing the March can also find information at the site, as well as anyone interested in being an Ambassador. 

Currently, the fiscal sponsor is being secured so the group may not utilize funds as of yet as a non-profit. Tax-free donation links and an apparel store will be up as soon as the relationship with the fiscal sponsor is formalized. 

People can commit their interest for shirts by filling out a pre-order apparel form for a 15 % discount once the store is launched. A pre-order form, as well as all other forms, are in the FAQ section of the site.

For more information about the March for Science and other satellite marches across the country and globe, visit March for Science.

 (Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

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