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Corporate Scientists Go to Washington

Erika Fry
Where Artificial Intelligence Will Pay Off Most in Health Care

On Earth Day-Saturday, April 22-employees from DSM, an $8 billion Dutch nutrition and materials firm, will hit the streets of Washington, D.C. (among other cities around the world), to celebrate science. Some will teach lessons on the National Mall; others, in the spirit of the day, will simply show up, proudly bear their corporate logo, and shuffle along in support of the March for Science.

The global demonstration, planned in the wake of the Women’s March on Washington, is aimed at countering the “mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue”-see climate change, vaccines, and GMOs-and the dubious policy that has arisen as a result. The event is avowedly nonpartisan, and Hugh Welsh, DSM’s president of North America, says that’s the point. “There are a number of folks who use science as a political tool rather than as an evidence-based way to make a decision,” Welsh says. “We think science is apolitical.”

Of course, there’s the chance that not everyone will see the nation’s scientists marching on Washington that way. The risk that some will interpret DSM’s participation as political action is one that its leadership wrestled with; ultimately they decided the message of the march was too important. The company, which specializes in fortified foods and environmentally friendly products like Clean Cow (to reduce cattle methane emissions), has become so unnerved by the rising tide of skepticism and vilification of science in recent years that it even launched a PR campaign to increase appreciation for the field and of world-changing scientific breakthroughs.

Joining the march seemed a natural extension of that work. DSM won’t be alone: Verily, Alphabet’s life-sciences arm, also plans to participate as an organization. But far more corporations are leaving it to their scientists to take a stand on their own. Google, Unilever, GSK, and Biogen, for example, won’t have any formal involvement, but all expect some employees will attend.

A version of this article appears in the April 1, 2017 issue of Fortune.

This article was originally published on FORTUNE.com