Yes, you know that the Science March’s mission is a simple call to support publicly communicated scientific research and evidence-based policies. But contrary to the March’s stated aims, some still believe that the March is a partisan statement that might alienate the very people whom you are calling. At CSLDF, we have seen well-meaning scientists and academics experience problems after advocating for science (e.g., here) or taking a personal political stance (e.g., here). What’s a scientist to do?
Don’t fret; prep. If you are one of the many scientists considering participating in the March for Science or engaging in other science-related activism, we are here to arm you with tools that will help you avoid ending up in political crosshairs. Here are a few simple High Knees Marches steps to follow:
Separate Your Work and Private Life. Participate and make statements on your own behalf, and not on behalf of your employer.
Know Your Employer’s Stance. We urge you to keep your participation separate from your work; still, you should go in knowing all the facts (you’re a scientist, after all!).
Determine Whether You (and Your Emails) Are Subject to Open Records Laws. Open record laws allow members of the public to request information from public employees, which can include work records and emails. If you are a federal employee, or work at a state university, you are usually considered a public employee, and may be subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or state open records laws. Recall that even at private institutions, federal grants may subject you to FOIA. For more information about the federal FOIA and state open records laws, check out our information on What Scientists Can Do.
We believe that it is important for scientists to use their voice — just be mindful of how and where you use yours.
As part of our commitment to educate members of the scientific community about the legal issues surrounding their work, we partnered with the ACLU on a free educational pamphlet, March for Science: Know Your Rights. The pamphlet is available as a free download to print and share, and we’ll mail copies free of charge to academic departments, organizations, and individuals to distribute.
This post concerns only U.S. laws, and it does not constitute specific legal advice for dealing with the particular circumstances of any individual. If you have any questions regarding your individual situation, we are always available to discuss — just contact us here.