When the well-regarded computer scientist Ed Lazowska said he was going to skip Seattle’s March for Science, he got a call from the governor asking him to change his mind.
An eminent scientist at the University of Washington got an unexpected phone call Thursday, after saying he planned to sit out Saturday’s March for Science in Seattle.
“Kudos to Governor Jay Inslee,” computer scientist Ed Lazowska wrote on his Facebook page. “Jay phoned to tell me why he *was* planning to participate, and that he hoped I would reconsider.”
A Seattle Times story on the march, published Thursday, quoted Lazowska as saying he’s committed to keeping science policy separate from politics.
“Science does not belong to Democrats or Republicans or independents or socialists,” Lazowska said. He describes himself as politically progressive, but he has also served on a science-advisory panel for former President George W. Bush.
Lazowska said Inslee explained the importance he places on scientific discovery and fact-based decision making. He also said Inslee recognized Lazowska’s concerns were legitimate.
It was enough to sway Lazowska — at least a little. On Friday, the UW scientist said he’s considering a change of heart, but hasn’t decided yet.
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“I think it’s a hugely positive statement about the Governor’s commitment to science that he reached out,” Lazowska said in an email.
An Inslee spokeswoman said Friday the governor will speak briefly at the Seattle march, one of more than 400 scheduled around the country and the world. “Science helps drive so many innovations, from health care and life sciences to advanced agriculture,” spokeswoman Jaime Smith said in an email. Inslee will also focus on confronting the challenge of climate change.
Organizers of Seattle’s march describe it as nonpartisan. But chagrin over the Trump administration’s dismantling of environmental and climate-change policies was a major impetus behind the grass-roots effort. Speakers at Saturday’s event include a former Environmental Protection Agency official who blasted the agency’s new leadership in a widely publicized exit letter.
Lazowska holds the UW’s prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering. In his long career at the UW, Lazowska was instrumental in building a computer-science department that’s considered one of the country’s best. He is a champion of K-12 science education and gender diversity in computer science.
He’s in the running for Geekwire’s 2017 Geek of the Year award for spearheading a new computer-science building at UW.