About

I’m Michael Rennie, an Assistant Professor at Lakehead University, editor/contributor to this blog, and a former Canadian government scientist. As part of the federal cuts announced in May 2012, my program was cut and I was told that my services “may no longer be required”. Clearly, I was not happy about the decision, as I thought it was a pretty great program. I had also grown pretty fed up of the bureaucratic monster above me that seemed to be consuming most of my working day, obsessed with feeding itself with endless approvals and forms, and could find no means internally by which I could work to fix the problem. When I told people about what we faced as government scientists, most thought I was embellishing. Hence the blog, to try and better educate people about the situation that government science faces in this country. In April 2014, I finally had enough and left the public service. Besides the odd post where I feel qualified to make a contribution these days, I hope to keep the blog going with contributions from others in the federal public service who feel they can use this as an outlet to make clear the challenges faced by government scientists.

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22 thoughts on “About

  1. Congratulations on your WordPress blog. I am a retired DFO biologist who also uses WP with theme 2011. Your blog presents an important topic which deserves greater exposure. For your consideration I recommend that you add both Categories and Tags to each of your posts. Categories and tags are the means of getting registered in the internet search engine databases so that other interested persons can find your blog on the net. Consider them to be essential. Categories are broad, tags are more detailed. I suggest you add the following categories to your existing posts, as appropriate for that post; DFO, Science, Government of Canada, Environment Canada. The following are the tags that came to mind as I read through all of your posts. Again, only use the ones appropriate for each post; publications, policy, C&A, copyright, suppression, NSERC, funding, budget, Arctic, research, ELA, Experimental Lakes Area, scientists, PIPSC, monitoring.

    I will send along other comments about your blog from time to time as Replies posted here. To get rid of these comments so that they won’t clutter your blog once you have seen them, you can use Dashboard/Comments then place your mouse over the comment you want to remove to bring up a horizontal menu beneath the comment and click on Trash. Note that the comment doesn’t get deleted, it only gets moved to Trash where you can still view it later if you want.

    You are welcome to contact me if you have a question about using 2011. However, I expect you may be reluctant to do so unless you have set up an anonymous e-mail handle in Hotmail. If you have a question, you could post it as a Reply on your About page. I will set up a blog follower so I should be notified if you do that.

    As an example of how I use WordPress theme 2011, I invite you to visit one of my recent posts about crocodiles in Kruger Park, at http://southafrica1023.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/where-have-they-all-gone-crocs-in-kruger/ Interestingly, it suggests there may be muzzling of scientific research news and reports in South Africa.

    • Thanks Jim- I’m new to this whole blogging thing so your advice is well taken. When I have some time I’ll try to incorporate some of your suggestions, including the bit about tags and categories.

  2. Unmuzsci – you are getting a number of replies, but you may not be getting them all. I noticed when I sent along my first comment, that I had to provide my name and e-mail address. That’s not a problem for me. But, just as you want to keep your anonymity at this time, others may feel the same. You can change this requirement if you like. Goto Dashboard/Settings/Discussion/Other Comment Settings and uncheck the first line “Comment author must fill out name and e-mail”, then go down to the bottom of that page to Save Changes. My apologies if I am reiterating something that you already know about.

    • Thanks Jim- nice to have my own personal blog advisor 😉 I’ve changed the comment settings so people can post anonymously- with any luck, we might see some comments from other government scientists. I’ve also put on a “follow blog” widget, let’s hope it works…

  3. One last suggestion for now. Today in my first comment, I indicated that I was going to sign up to follow your blog. I have done so, but not in the way I intended, and it might be a path only available to other WordPress users. There will be persons who may want to be informed of the discussion but may not make any comment at this time. For them, I suggest you place the widget “Follow Blog” in the upper portion of your right hand sidebar. It will allow them to receive e-mail notifications when you put up a new post. Cheers, Jim

  4. I was encouraged to see that you have 8 comments on your most recent post. You get positive feedback on your site activity as you can see the site visit graphs and visit your stats pages. But from my side as a site visitor, I can’t tell if the site is active or quiet. That may influence how often visitors return to view the site. For this reason, I recommend that you add the widget Blog Stats somewhere near the top of the right sidebar.

    Think of Categories and Tags as the search keywords that persons will use to turn your page up in a Google Search. A person is more likely to search on the terms Canada and Science than on the terms Government of Canada and Government Science. In this case the term Government is really too broad. I suggest changing these categories to Canada and Science. You can change the category names for all posts in which they appear, at once. To do so, goto Dashboard/Posts/Categories and edit the category name you would like to change. This will spin the edit out to the entire blog.

    I believe that former ELA scientist Dr. David Schindler now at U of A may be interested in your blog. I don’t know him personally, but would like to pass along your blog address if you agree.

    • Thanks for the ongoing coaching, Jim. I’ll keep your suggestions up here as useful advice for any other N00b bloggers who are as green as I. Please feel free to pass on the page to Dr. Schindler.

    • Thanks for commenting, with a likewise sentiment. Please feel free to use this venue in the comments to post your own experiences on these matters. The more of us who make our views heard, the more likely people will start taking notice, and the better the changes that we might somehow be able to turn things around and change them for the better.

      Note also that I have changed the settings on the blog so that the name and e-mail fields ought not to be required for you to leave a comment here. Trust me, I get the value of anonymity in this circumstance.

  5. You may come to experience the “blogger’s burden”. That is, the pressure to post in order to maintain interest among blog visitors. Of itself, the blogging “publication or perish” imperative can be positive and negative. It certainly encourages writing skills in assembling and editing posts in short order. The negative aspect is the obligation to write and the requisite time commitment. The bottom line is that you must achieve a sense of accomplishment.

    As the owner of the blog you have content control. You write about a topic and in so doing, invite others to comment on that topic. But you are obliged to take that first step as you are the sole author. Note that there are multi contributor options. If you decide you want to contemplate that type of blog structure, goto http://en.support.wordpress.com/ and search on User Roles for information about Administrators, Editors, Authors and Contributors.

    However, your visitors may not want to forego their anonymity and may have comments that don’t fit within the posts’ current scope of discussion. Visitors may have ideas that they would like to encourage you to discuss on the blog or they may be aware of links to other sources of information which could be of assistance to you in developing new posts. You might consider creating avenues to encourage visitors’ willingness to contribute directly or indirectly to the writing and blogging process.

    It’s your blog, it’s your call. I can think of 2 ways to encourage visitors to provide input. I will include a description of these in a subsequent comment, as this one is long already and I have a date with a microbrewery to attend to at this time…

  6. The options I am about to describe fulfill 2 different functions. The first is readily visible to all visitors and may of itself initiate a comment chain. The second option provides for a visitor to send information or comments to you, privately and confidentially.

    First, a sticky post, also known as a featured post. It puts the invitation for others to share their views right at the top of the first page and keeps it there. As an example of a sticky post, look at http://southafrica1023.wordpress.com/ The top post “Hello Africa” stays there all the time. New posts fall right underneath that one. You could have a sticky post titled something like, “What do you have to say?” or “Affected or Surplused – what’s your experience?” Then the post itself would have a few words inviting reader’s input or inviting their suggestions for new discussion topics or for them to provide links to other sources of information, and guidance that the reader can do this by clicking the Leave a Reply link at the bottom of the post or by clicking on the “comment balloon” in the top right corner of the post. A sticky post is drafted in the usual manner. Just before you Publish the new post go to the upper right hand corner of the post edit screen. Two lines down in the Publish box there’s a line which refers to Visibility. Click on Edit on that line. The radio button Public should be highlighted. Just below this, check off Stick this post to the front page. That’s it, it will stay on top! Let’s take a break here before I describe the 2nd option, a separate page with a form on it.

  7. The other option is to set up another page in the blog, let’s call it “Contact me”. This page contains a form, and perhaps a few words to indicate that it is confidential, what people might want to send to you, and that it is not necessary for the reader to include their name and e-mail address if they prefer not to. Here’s how to set up a form on a new page. Goto Dashboard/Pages/Add New. Fill in your page title. Below that, there are 2 icons to the right of Add Media. Click on the second icon Add a custom form. A form builder comes up with some suggested entries. You see that it says Name (required). Let’s change this. Hover your mouse over this area and click on Edit when it appears. Then uncheck the box for Required, and click on Save this field. Do the same for Email. We don’t even need an entry called Website. Somewhat obscure, the dash on the right of the text entry box is actually a delete button, click on the one to the right of Website. Now go to the top of the form builder and click on Email notifications. Add your e-mail address and a subject line that you will recognize in your regular mail inbox. Please be advised that when I tested this as a general blog visitor, I was unable to see the e-mail address that the comment was being sent to, and it did not show up in my regular e-mail send folder so I didn’t have a record of the destination e-mail address. The receiving party was unable to determine the source address of the e-mail. So as far as I can tell, anonymity is maintained. If you want to test this, I have set up a “Contact me” form page on one of my blogs for you to try out, at http://olgawlasiuk.wordpress.com/ If you happen to create a contact form, I will start using that to pass along comments so that this page doesn’t get cluttered up.

  8. I am not a scientist, public servant or politician. I really encourage you and others to get your musings out there! Our secretive government must be called out.
    J.

  9. Hi, unfortunately this isn’t only happening within these sciences etc., alarmingly it’s also occurring within health and medical sciences. Even within university environments, where plausible deniability is stifling any progress for all humankind. Why isn’t the public aware of Jaroslav Flegr’s research or even S. James Gates? It would change -everything-. But they can Expect Us. Peace be with you. >;{>
    Sincerely a covert Scientist…

  10. Hi. I’m Bruce from Through the Luminary lens, the guy who rebloged your Greg Rickford post. It was good. I have followed your blog for a few months now. A couple of points . . .

    1) Images are powerful and social media is by and large a visual media via the computer screen. You really captured my eye on this Rickford post by using the photo of the 5 people standing in front of the large poster that declared “Save Canada’s water.” On the other hand, I struggled with rebloging the post and considered to add a warning for my readers that they may find the other image on the header disturbing. I notice you have now changed that photo. it still depicts being gagged to equal effect, and I consider it much less offensive. I apreciate this change. I understand the effect you are attempting with these header images, but my own expereinces in with shocking pictures, have generally been counter productive. Please be judjicious.
    2) When I read your “About” I sense your justified frustration as well as your courage and commitment. I don’t mean to sound prudish, but how about just saying “clearly, I’m angry about the decision…” And your blog is not sh**ty – delete delete delete. I think this a slight change in tone, will come off better.

    So there is my 2 bits worth of editorial analysis. It is good you have a seasoned mentor in Jim, and as he says “this is your blog.” Do what you will, but do keep posting.You may consider posting a little more regularily scuh as weekly of bi-weekly . . . readers like myself will look forward to your updates.

    Also, to get a bit more exposure in the blogosphere, consider visiting other activists’ blogs – a few that I like and follow are Jeff at deconstructingmyths.com or Glenn at civilrightskiosk.com . . . Tanya at http://illuminatebytanya.wordpress.com/, is a young journalist who also may reblog you. Oh – and if you get a chance, maybe drop over to my blog. I have an eclectic mix of posts including an extensive series on windpower – http://throughtheluminarylens.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/tilting-at-windmills-and-the-cape-scott-wind-project-a-turnabout-indeed/

    Keep up the good work. I thank you form the bottom of my heart, for your speaking out. It does make a difference because other people become en-couraged and begin to speak out as well.

    In solidarity – Bruce

    • Thanks Bruce for the tips- I’ll take them under consideration. Thanks also for the links. Frequency of posts is something I struggle with, for a variety of reasons, but working on it. Curious- which was the offensive pic? It’s a rolling list of pictures I have in the header, so everytime you visit or refresh the page it’ll be a different one- I haven’t actually removed any. Curious to know which one you don’t like.

      Thanks for the suggestions and the support.

      • Your welcome unm . . . . ah right – rolling photos in the header. The photo that was quite graphic had 2 side by side images of a black man with a muzzle and a ball had been forced in his mouth. It looked like the person was being tortured. It is a difficult thing to imagine, then alone see. I hope it was a set up photo, but the down side with with the internet is that it was probably real . . . Argh….

        • Thanks Bruce- that particular image is a result of lighting and make-up; it’s actually an image from the Quentin Tarantino film, “Pulp Fiction“. It’s a complicated back-story if you aren’t familiar with the film, but let’s just say that both characters at this point in the plot have found themselves in an awkward situation. My affinity for the photo is that I feel very much like government scientists are in a similar position as the two characters in the film- facing an uncertain future, but one they know is unlikely to end well given the few details they have been able to put together. My only hope is that there are some among us that can find some way to mount something akin to Butch’s escape and rescue of Marcellus to save government science from being too terribly abused by the current government… before it’s too late.

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