“Democracy needs constructive dialogue”

Doctoral student Claudio Paganini (29) talks about preparations for the March for Science on 22 April in Berlin.

April 18, 2017

Claudio Paganini is a doctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam. Since February he has been a member of the organization team of the Berlin March for Science – one of over 400 demonstrations to be held around the world on 22 April.

Mr Paganini, how did you happen to become a member of the organization team of the March for Science?

I read about the demonstrations on Facebook and immediately looked for organization teams near me. I soon found one in Berlin. At the moment we’re promoting the event, ordering banners, making signs,...

What exactly are you demonstrating for?

That science be taken seriously, and that scientific findings not just be swept under the carpet for political reasons. With the March for Science, we’d like to show that society as a whole benefits from science and that, consequently, scientific freedom affects us all. Conversely, there is also a message for science itself: the acceptance of science by society is no longer something that can be taken for granted.

And that means…

For us, it means that we must step up our communication in order to strengthen social support. And that takes me to our next message: whether in Hungary or Turkey, movements antagonistic to science are already under way in Europe. Pointing a finger at the USA is not enough. We want to declare our solidarity with all scientists who currently find themselves under political pressure.

What do your colleagues think about March for Science?

My Institute has given me its full support. Our two Directors have signed our list of supporters, and a few colleagues have already promised to accompany me on the demonstration. I’ve also received a lot of encouragement privately. I’ve only had one encounter where someone was really critical of it.

What was that about?

The accusation was that we scientists tend to keep to ourselves at the demonstration. That’s exactly what we want to avoid. Ultimately, we are concerned with showing just how deeply rooted science is in broad segments of society. In Berlin we’ve therefore called upon all scientists to bring along at least two acquaintances who are not active in the field of science. To stimulate dialogue, scientists on the campus of Humboldt University will talk about their routine research work before the demonstration gets under way. They will stand on crates and speak to anyone who’s interested. We call that soapbox science.

And when you then march from Humboldt University towards the Brandenburg Gate, what message will be on your sign?

Probably something about the importance of science for an open democratic society. Democracy needs constructive dialogue based on scientific findings. I could well imagine a sign such as: “Freedom, the first-born daughter of science”, a quote from Thomas Jefferson.

The interview was conducted by Marieke Schmidt

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