'Science is not the enemy': Saskatoon March for Science calls for diversity and climate change awareness

University of Saskatchewan researcher Julia Boughner says science in Canada has received a big financial boost since last year’s March for Science.

Big boost last year for scientific research, but even more is needed, says march co-organizer

Amy, 7, Vivian, 5, Danielle, Cadence, 10, and David Fletcher bundled up to take part in the March for Science, despite an icy wind blowing through Saskatoon on Saturday. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

University of Saskatchewan researcher Julia Boughner says scientific research in Canada has received a big financial boost since last year's March for Science — but this year's march aimed to draw attention to some of the reasons even more is needed.

Marches to coincide with the second annual worldwide event were held in Saskatoon and Regina on Saturday.

The worldwide event in 2017 called attention to the importance of scientific information in political decision-making, and was born out of a Reddit conversation following the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Since then, Boughner, one of the co-organizers of Saturday's March for Science in Saskatoon, said Canadian research agencies have received more than $1 billion in funding.

It's momentum that scientists like Boughner do not want to lose.

"It's now time to say 'thank you — and can we please have more,'" she told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend on Saturday, ahead of the march.

"Because we still don't have enough money to continue to hire the people who we need to hire, and to train these people and to lead the research groups, and to do the data collection and analysis that we need to address all the challenges that we're facing."

Marchers promote truth, facts 

Jane Yaeger and Michael Earl were among about 50 people who took part in the march in Saskatoon, which drew a crowd of about 200 last year.

Michael Earl and Jane Yaeger dressed in costumes made by Yaeger at the March for Science on Saturday. Earl, who was dressed as famous Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, wanted to promote astronomy as an accessible gateway to science. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Yaeger hoped this year's march would raise awareness about science and help change attitudes about climate change.

"I think sometimes people are a little too entrenched in what they've done for many, many generations and they need to have their eyes open," she said.

"So marches like this help them to realize that maybe there is something else they need to be looking at, to not only help their business but help their children and the future of the planet."

Earl, who is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, said one of his biggest concerns is how the internet is being used to spread misinformation.

"Science is not your enemy," he said.

"Science is not there to indoctrinate you, it's not there to tell you what to think. Science is there to say, to tell you, 'This is how we are suggesting you can think for yourself.'"

He dressed as the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei because astronomy is an accessible gateway to science, he said.

Yaeger, a designer who made the Galileo costume and her own, dressed as a member of the Medici court of Galileo's time.

Gail Stevens, who was also at the march, said she was taking part for her five grandchildren.

She said she cares deeply about public policy being informed by evidence-based science, adding that she is concerned about the way federal and provincial governments are making decisions.

Gail Stevens gets ready for the march with her friends Dave Greenfield and Lois Mitchell, who are also members of Climate Justice Saskatoon and the Council of Canadians. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

"It worries me that our decisions are not respecting the crisis that we're in, in terms of our climate," she said.

"They seem to think that they can simultaneously pursue an unlimited growth economy with consumerism and that is not congruent with protecting a planet that we can live in, with life as we know it."

Danielle and David Fletcher brought their three daughters Vivian, 5, Amy, 7, and Cadence, 10, to participate in the march.

"We're hoping that by educating our daughters to speak out for better science education that we'll be able to help our planet and our society improve," said Danielle.

March also calls for diversity

Boughner, who is an associate professor of evolutionary developmental anthropology, said the march is also a chance to stand up for diversity in science.

She said this year's billion-dollar investment in Canadian science included funding to increase the representation of women and First Nations people in that field.

"That's important because research has shown that a more diverse group is a group that is more able to problem solve and come up with creative solutions, and is less likely to fall into a pattern of group-think," said Boughner.

The Saskatoon March for Science started at the pagoda in Victoria Park and looped through the downtown area.

It was a family-friendly event and participants were invited to wear their favourite science-themed outfit or costume.

Regina also hosted a March for Science starting at 2 p.m. at the Saskatchewan Science Centre.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend