I like my science unmuzzled

Thanks to Kennedy Stewart for drafting this motion to be presented in the House of Commons (whenever they can actually get back to work…):

http://kennedystewart.ndp.ca/post/ndp-tables-plan-to-end-conservative-muzzling-of-federal-scientists

Let’s see our government show exactly how much it wants its scientists communicating with the public. Hopefully it will go better than the last time the topic of science came up in the house of commons. I, for one (not surprisingly), would be thrilled if this motion was passed and followed through on.

Update: September 20th, 2013: I just saw the op-ed by David Schindler in the Toronto Star regarding the Stand Up for Science protests that happened on Monday- his piece focuses primarily on government science muzzling, which was one of the focus points of the protests (and the focus of Kennedy’s motion). Very well written, and provides an excellent historic perspective, as well as the risks of keeping your scientists to their speaking points. You can read the op-ed here.

 

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Canadian Government votes against… Science

Our fearless leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, voting "No" to science in this country.

Our fearless leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, voting “No” to science in this country.

It’s one of those things that you wish you hadn’t seen- like a terrible car crash that you drive past.

Today, our members of parliament debated a motion put forward by NDP Science and Technology critic, Kennedy Stewart. The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House,

a) public science, basic research, and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making;

b) federal government scientists must be enabled to discuss openly their findings with their colleagues and the public;

c) the government should maintain support for its basic scientific capacity across Canada, including immediately extending funding, until a new operator is found, to the world-renowned Experimental Lakes Area Research Facility to pursue its unique research program.

The governing conservative party cheered as they defeated the motion, 157 against to 137 for. That’s right- a majority of our parliamentarians, every single one of them conservative, voted against this motion. Want to see how your MP voted? You can find out here. Maybe they would like to explain to you why they voted the way they did.

So let’s review exactly what it is that our government does not support.

A. They do NOT support scientific evidence to inform government policy. Perhaps not surprising, seeing as how the recent changes to environmental legislation in this country were clearly made without seeking out scientific advice.

B. They do NOT support federal government scientists (people like me) discussing our scientific research with the public or our colleagues. We’re already forced to go through enourmous rigamarole (I believe that’s the technical term) to talk to the media, or present our work at a scientific conference. Clearly, that wasn’t enough, so they made publishing our scientific work more difficult: we now need to seek approval from a Division Manager to first submit the paper, as well as to sign off on copyright release.

C. This is a bit of a two-parter. First, they do NOT believe in maintaining support for basic scientific capacity across Canada. All government departments have seen a reduction in their science capacity with the cutbacks that have rolled out over the past two years, though the government still hasn’t admitted it publicly. Gary Goodyear claims that investments in science and technology have increased over their time in power, but there seems to be some debate about those numbers. According to Kennedy Stewart, Stats Canada numbers that suggest that investment in Science and Technology has actually fallen by about 1 Billion dollars annually since the 2010-2011 fiscal year (I’d love to post the numbers if Kennedy reads this and can point me to them- I can be reached on my comment page).

The second part, is that the government does NOT support extending funding for the Experimental Lakes Area until a new operator has been found. Again, not surprising, given that they started tearing cabins apart last week and informed non-government scientists this week that they would not be allowed on-site to conduct their research– federally funded research.

This government says it invests in science, but makes it crystal clear in its actions that it’s not the least bit concerned with it. As they say, actions speak louder than words.

UPDATE (21 March 2013): In response to Burinsmith and Ivankaram that my title is over the top… it’s based on the picture. The topic of the vote, according to CPAC which broadcast it yesterday, was “Science”. The following tweet inspired the post:tim_chu

I was always told, even in the science world, that you want a catchy title. Looks like I’m getting alot of traffic on this post, from folks with a variety of viewpoints. Hopefully my post can contribute to constructive discussions around the issue outside of my choice of title.