Aftershocks from the May 2010 public science conference in Gatineau, Québec

The first of this year’s two policy conferences on science in Canada (described on this blog here) has resulted in some after-the-fact media coverage. An article by Elizabeth Church, Presto, change-o: A Reformer, reinvented in the print edition (or Preston Manning: Proselytizer of science in the online edition) of the May 15, 2010 Globe and Mail focused on Preston Manning, one of the conference’s keynote speakers. (Manning has been interviewed for this blog, part 1 and part 2). From Church’s article,

…  Mr. Manning shared the stage with broadcaster and environmental icon David Suzuki at a conference in Gatineau, Que., organized by the union representing professional federal workers. He and Dr. Suzuki were paired up to show different perspectives on science policy, a spokeswoman for the event said, and to see how the two sides might meet.

“There are a lot of things that we agree on,” Dr. Suzuki said. “Our big disagreement is he thinks the free market is going to solve everything, which is total bullshit.”

Asked about his deep Christian convictions, Mr. Manning said they do not put him offside with scientific thought. One can think that genetic mutations and natural selection have something to do with the development of life, he explains, and also believe there is a direction to things that comes from God.

“Science explains what is going on,” he said.

Church’s article suggests a more lively interaction than Léo Charbonneau’s article (Bringing science to bear on policy) about the talk, written for University Affairs,

Mr. Manning was the founder of the Reform Party and a Member of Parliament from 1993 to 2001. David Suzuki is a scientist, well-known environmentalist and popular broadcaster.

The two were appearing in the opening keynote session at the second Science Policy Symposium organized by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and being held in Gatineau, Quebec, across the river from Ottawa, until tomorrow. The symposium has as its aim to strengthen science policy in Canada, an extremely important issue that deserves greater attention by the public, policy makers and government.

I admit I was hoping for perhaps a bit of fireworks between the two speakers, but they addressed each other politely, if somewhat formally, and mostly avoided any overt provocation.

Amongst other nuggets in Charbonneau’s article, Manning is calling for a national science communication conference.

It’s encouraging to see the coverage of the first of this year’s two Canadian science policy conferences and I hope the organizers of the second conference (taking place this October) experience as much or more success.

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