On Saturday, scientists will join with educators and neighbors, patients and doctors, and other science supporters and concerned people in Washington, D.C., and more than 425 other locations around the globe for the March for Science.
The event is meant to send a clear message to the world that science matters.
Every day, scientists such as myself work to better understand the brain, the most complex biological structure in the known universe.
We strive to develop better treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders that affect nearly 1 billion people worldwide.
As a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the National Clozapine Coordinating Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I both conduct scientific research and advise other physicians and providers on patient care.
I plan to participate in the Dallas March to show support for both my scientist peers and the patients I help serve.
In my research, I study how sleep influences mental health disorders such as depression, autism, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sleep is intimately involved in brain health and the recovery of brain health, yet we know precious little about how sleep works at the molecular level in brain cells.
Scientists like myself need public support and funding in order to unravel these complex processes so doctors can provide the most effective treatments for debilitating and often fatal diseases.
By taking advantage of cutting-edge technology developed at UT Southwestern, my lab investigates how sleep influences gene expression in the brain.
This knowledge will help lay the foundation for sleep-related therapeutic approaches that will ultimately lead to healthier brain function and more enjoyable lives.
The patients I serve benefit from a variety of treatments that greatly improve their mental health and overall well-being.
Each of these therapies is the result of a complex scientific journey that began with an idea, or a concept, or a hunch, in a scientist’s lab or classroom.
The progression is often gradual, punctuated every now and again by paradigm-shifting insights that can spring from a fertile field of incremental advances.
Scientists need to engage with the public more to illustrate how the incremental progress in science creates the necessary groundwork for bigger, headline-grabbing advances.
I’m confident we’ll gain unprecedented knowledge about the workings of the brain during my lifetime. But to achieve this progress, we need sustained federal investment in scientific research.
The National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, has historically enjoyed bipartisan support, as this research is essential for a healthy population and economic vitality in the U.S. and in nations around the world.
In fiscal year 2015, Texas received more than $1 billion in NIH funding and about $329 million in National Science Foundation funding.
This federal funding provides vital support for crucial research across the scientific spectrum, including at my university, while also supporting the jobs and infrastructure that come with this research.
In fact, the NIH funds directly support more than 23,000 jobs and $3.68 billion in economic activity in Texas. Scientific research is good for human health and good for the economy.
As scientists here in Texas and around the world prepare for the March for Science, we have volumes of interesting stories of discovery to share.
I encourage my fellow scientists and educators to find ways to spread these stories of progress and their impact on human health, including by taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by attending their local March for Science.
These scientific advancements depend on an ardent commitment to research in the U.S., working in effective partnership with the research community around the world.
My professional society, the Society for Neuroscience, and more than 170 other organizations endorse the March for Science, a celebration of science and the many ways it serves our communities and our world.
Science and scientific exchange are indispensable to human health and progress, and we will reinforce that message on Saturday. I hope you’ll join us.
Robert Greene MD is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Peter O’Donnell Brain Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and director of the National Clozapine Coordinating Center at the Department of Veterans Affairs.