Tag Archives: Pat Mooney

Science and Society 2013 opens with a bang: a sponsor releases results of science muzzle survey on opening day (while S&S 2013 offers live streaming of some events)

Today (Oct. 21, 2013) during opening day of the Science and Society 2013 symposium (most recently mentioned in my Oct. 8, 2013 posting), one of the symposium sponsors, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) has released a survey of thousands of Canadian federal scientists answering questions about government science communication policy or the ‘government muzzle’ as it’s sometimes called (from the Oct. 21, 2013 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] news item),

Hundreds of federal scientists responding to a survey said they had been asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and thousands said they had been prevented from speaking to the media. [emphasis mine]

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which commissioned the survey from Environics Research “to gauge the scale and impact of ‘muzzling’ and political interference among federal scientists,” released the results Monday at a news conference.

The union sent invitations to 15,398 federal scientists in June, asking them to participate in the survey. More than 4,000 took part. [emphasis mine]

PIPSC represents 60,000 public servants across the country, including 20,000 scientists, in federal departments and agencies, including scientists involved in food and consumer product safety and environmental monitoring.

Weirdly, the news item announces hundreds of scientists responded to follow up later stating that a number exceeding 4000 took part.

The Oct. 21, 2013 PIPSC news release about the survey which is included in a report (The Big Chill) can be found on the Live-PR website,

The survey, the findings of which are included in a new report titled The Big Chill, is the first extensive effort to gauge the scale and impact of “muzzling” and political interference among federal scientists since the Harper government introduced communications policies requiring them to seek approval before being interviewed by journalists. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is currently conducting her own investigation of the policies, which have been widely criticized for silencing scientists, suppressing information critical or contradictory of government policy, and delaying timely, vital information to the media and public.

In particular, the survey also found that nearly one-quarter (24%) of respondents had been directly asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and that over one-third (37%) had been prevented in the past five years from responding to questions from the public and media.

In addition, the survey found that nearly three out of every four federal scientists (74%) believe the sharing of scientific findings has become too restricted in the past five years and that nearly the same number (71%) believe political interference has compromised Canada’s ability to develop policy, law and programs based on scientific evidence. According to the survey, nearly half (48%) are aware of actual cases in which their department or agency suppressed information, leading to incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading impressions by the public, industry and/or other government officials.

“Federal scientists are facing a climate of fear,” says PIPSC president Gary Corbett, “- a chill brought on by government policies that serve no one’s interests, least of all those of the Canadian public. The safety of our food, air, water, of hundreds of consumer and industrial products, and our environment depends on the ability of federal scientists to provide complete, unbiased, timely and accurate information to Canadians. Current policies must change to ensure these objectives are met.”

For anyone interested in seeing the survey and report, you can download it from PIPSC’s The Big Chill webpage.

In this context, the Science and Society 2013 symposium (S&S 2013) being held in Ottawa (site of the PIPSC [an S&S 2013 sponsor] Oct. 21, 2013news conference), is livestreaming a few events for the public (ones at 7 pm) and those intended for symposium attendees only. From an Oct. 18, 2013 announcement about the S&S 2013 live events,

WATCH THESE LIVE ONLINE!

MONDAY OCT. 21, 7PM ET
Transformations in the Relations between Science, Policy and Citizens
Yves Gingras, Canada Research Chair in History and Sociology of Science, UQAM

TUESDAY OCT. 22, 9:15AM ET
Science and Its Publics: Dependence, Disenchantment, and Deliverance
Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School

TUESDAY OCT. 22, 1PM ET
Science, Values and Democracy
Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, Waterloo
Carla Fehr, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, Waterloo

WEDNESDAY Oct. 23, 1PM ET
Science Communication
Mary Anne Moser, Banff Centre

WEDNESDAY Oct. 23, 5:30PM ET
Influencers Panel
Key decision-makers discuss the symposium results
Scott Findley, Evidence for Democracy
Pat Mooney, ETC Group
Louise Vandelac, UQAM
Denise Amyot, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

Apparently, you can go here to click through to the events being livestreamed. (It looks like I grumbled too soon about the public not being allowed to attend any of the symposium talks outside the evening events specifically designated for the public. Thank you!)

Canadian science and society symposium in Ottawa (Oct. 21 – 23, 2013)

The Science and Society 2013: Emerging Agendas for Citizens and the Sciences symposium (featured previously in my Aug. 16,, 2013 posting) is being held in Ottawa, Ontario from Oct. 21-23, 2013 according to the symposium homepage,

Co-organized by the Situating Science SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster (www.situsci.ca) and the University of Ottawa’s Institute for Science, Society and Policy (www.issp.uottawa.ca), the Science and Society 2013 symposium aims to understand and address the key issues at the interface of science, technology, society and policy.

The event will connect disparate themes and bring different groups with shared interests together to brainstorm solutions to common challenges. It will demonstrate that collaboration among academics, students, policy makers, stakeholders and the public at large can lead to new insights and a deeper understanding of the social and cultural contexts of science and technology.

The symposium aims to make the discussion of science and technology and their place in society more prominent in the national dialogue, notably through the publication of a symposium report containing recommendations on how to understand and improve the science-society interface and improve science policy.  This document will be distributed among media and key decision makers.

There are three events for the public:

The Transformations in the Relations Between Science, Policy and Citizens

Date: Mon. Oct. 21, 2013
Time: 19:00 – 20:30
Location: Desmarais Building, Rm. 12-102 (12th floor), University of Ottawa, 55 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa
Price: Free (registration required)
Reception and Student Poster Display to follow
Out of town? Watch live online (link TBD)

The traditional relations between scientists, policy makers and citizens have been transformed over the last fifteen years. Scientists were used to providing science for policy makers who were eager to listen, while citizens were relatively confident in the judgments of scientists. Using recent cases of scientific and public controversies, we will show that citizens have more power now than ever before to influence policies in matters relating to scientific research. This raises the pressing issue for us as citizens: How do we give a central place to a scientific culture that is adapted to the 21st century?

Yves Gingras
Canada Research Chair in the History and Sociology of Science
Université du Québec à Montréal

UNCERTAIN SCIENCE, UNCERTAIN TIMES
Selections and discussion of Michael Frayn’s Tony Award-winning play, Copenhagen
Moderated by Jay Ingram
Directed by Kevin Orr
Tuesday Oct. 22, 2013, 7:30 pm
Alumni Auditorium, Jock-Turcot University Centre, 85 University, University of Ottawa
Free
Donations accepted at the door
Reception to follow
“Join” our Facebook event page:
https://www.facebook.com/events/455270781259464/?ref=22Limited seating!  Register online by Sunday Oct. 20:
www.ScienceAndSociety2013.ca    

The Situating Science national Strategic Knowledge Cluster with the University of Ottawa Institute for Science, Society and Policy invite you to join us for a professionally staged reading of selections from Michael Frayn’s acclaimed play Copenhagen, which will be interwoven with expert panel discussions moderated by science broadcaster and author, Jay Ingram.

Copenhagen is based on the final meeting of Nobel-Prize winning physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg in the midst of the 1940s War effort. The issues it raises concerning science, ethics and politics are as pressing as ever.

Stage readings by: Tibor Egervari, Peter Hawaorth, and Beverly Wolfe

Panelists:
Dr. Ted Hsu, Member of Parliament for Kingston and the Islands, Science and Technology Critic for the Liberal Party of Canada

Dr. Shohini Ghose, Associate Professor, Department of Physics & Computer Science; Affiliate member, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and Director, Centre for Women in Science, Wilfred Laurier University

Dr. Robert Smith, Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta

Influencers Panel
Panel of influential decision-makers discussing results of the symposium

Date: Wed. Oct. 23, 2013
Time: 17:30 – 19:00
Location: Desmarais Building, Rm. 12-102 (12th floor), University of Ottawa, 55 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa
Price: Free (registration required)
Reception to follow.
Out of town? Watch live online! (link TBD)

Yves St-Onge
Vice-President, Public Affairs and Marketing, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation

Scott Findlay
Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa
Evidence for Democracy

Pat Mooney
Executive Director, ETC Group

Louise Vandelac
Professor, Department of Sociology, Université du Québec à Montréal

Denise Amyot
President and CEO, Association of Canadian Community Colleges

Register today to attend the 3 public evening events …
Not in Ottawa? Some select symposium events will be availble to watch online live (no registration needed). Stay tuned to the event website for more.

This symposium, save for the three public evening events, appears to be for invitees only (there’s no symposium registration page). Presumably nobody wants any members of the public or strangers present when the invitees discuss such topics as these (from the symposium programme):

Science and Its Publics: Dependence, Disenchantment, and Deliverance [emphasis mins]

Desmarais Building Rm. 12
-
102
Chair: Dr. Gordon McOuat, Situating Science
Speaker: Dr. Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School
Session 1a: Science and Democracy [emphasis mine]
Desmarais Building Rm. 12
-
102
Chair/Speaker: Dr. Heather Douglas, Waterloo
Speakers:
Dr. Frédéric Bouchard, U. de Montréal
Dr. Patrick Feng, U. Calgary
Science, Policy and Citizens: How to improve the Science/Society interface [emphasis mine]
Desmarais Building Rm. 12 – 102
Chairs: Dr. Marc Saner, ISSP and Dr. Gordon McOuat, Situating Science
Speakers: Rapporteurs from previous sessions

It seems odd to be discussing democracy, citizenship, and science without allowing the public to attend any of the sessions. Meanwhile, the symposium’s one and only science and media session features two speakers, Penny Park of the Science Media Centre of Canada and Ivan Semeniuk of the Globe and Mail, who are firmly ensconced members of the mainstream media with no mention of anything else (science blogs?). Arguably, science bloggers could be considered relevant to these discussions since research suggests that interested members of the public are searching for science information online (in blogs and elsewhere) in in increasing numbers. I hope to get a look at the documentation once its been published, assuming there will be public access.