A Get Science Right town hall will be held next Tuesday at Halifax Central Library – please see our event page on facebook. Our purpose is to discuss the plight of science and evidence-based policy-making in Canada. A panel discussion will set the stage for what I expect will be a lively discussion. Read on for more about our panelists and their efforts to raise awareness about public-interest science in Canada.
Get Science Right Town Hall
Tuesday, September 29 at 7 PM
Halifax Central Library, Paul O’Regan Hall
5440 Spring Garden Road
Admission is free
From time to time I am told that “protesting cannot make a difference”. To this I point out the game-changing Death of Evidence march in 2012. The spectacle of thousands of lab-coated scientists marching on Parliament Hill captured the imagination of the public, the attention of international media, and scrutiny from leading scientific institutions. It provoked an immediate and ongoing response from the Harper government to accusations that it does not value research.
Katie Gibbs was the lead organizer of the Death of Evidence march and is one of our panelists. She went on to establish Evidence for Democracy (E4D), a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making. E4D’s report Can Scientists Speak was a landmark achievement that has been widely reported.
An important catalyst for the Death of Evidence march was the shuttering of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Northern Ontario. ELA is a collection of 58 freshwater lakes set aside in 1968 for full ecosystem experimental study. It is a one-of-a-kind research station that has made pivotal discoveries leading to national and international public policy changes. Their research was interrupted when the Harper government started tearing ELA’s facilities down.
Britt Hall is an ELA researcher and one of our panelists. She was a national committee member for the Coalition to Save ELA, a nonpartisan group of scientists and citizens that fought for – and won – the station’s survival. The Coalition stands as a great example of how activism from scientists and citizens can make a difference.
The dismantling of federal science libraries and the dumpstering of their collections pains us all. Panelist Peter Wells has written about the federal government’s “particularly harmful” approach to government science in the peer-reviewed literature (see here and here). As a retired Environment Canada marine scientist, Peter has first-hand knowledge of the importance of – and challenges facing – federal government science.
And then there is me, Tom Duck. My first foray in defence of science was a 2012 op-ed that helped expose the cuts to programs at Environment Canada. I have since written and spoken extensively about public-interest science. My most recent work is an essay in The Tyee about muzzled federal government scientists.
The panel and public discussion will be moderated by science historian Ian Stewart. Ian has been vocal about the need for more scientific input to government policy-making. He was a guest on Mary Lynk’s excellent Science Under Seige series on CBC radio.
Altogether, I think that it will be a very interesting event. There is a high level of public engagement in science issues, and we very much look forward facilitating a broader discussion about the way forward.