Tag Archives: Matthew Robinson

Late to the Stand Up for Science party/protest of Sept. 16, 2013

It’s not the first time I’ve missed a party and I have to say thank you to my US colleagues (David Bruggeman’s Oct. 3, 2013 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog and Glyn Moody’s Oct. 3, 2013 Techdirt posting) for insuring I found out about the Sept. 16, 2013 series of cross Canada protest rallies, Stand Up for Science, regarding the ‘muzzling’ of science communication in Canada.

Suzanne Goldenberg’s Sept. 16, 2013 article for the Guardian provides a good overview of the situation. I have excerpted the bits that are new to me (Note: Links have been removed),

Researchers in 16 Canadian cities have called protests on Monday against science policies introduced under the government of Stephen Harper, which include rules barring government researchers from talking about their own work with journalists and, in some cases, even fellow researchers.

“There a lot of concern in Canada right now about government scientists not being allowed to speak about their research to the public because of the new communications policies being put into place,” said Katie Gibbs, director of a new group, Evidence for Democracy, which is organising the protests.

This year, [2013] Canada’s department of fisheries and oceans released a new set of rules barring scientists from discussing their findings with the public or publishing in academic journals.[emphasis mine]

The new guidelines required all scientists to submit papers to a departmental manager for review – even after they had been accepted for publication by an academic journal.

The proposed rules became public earlier this year after American scientists on a joint US-Canadian project in the eastern Arctic took exception at the new conditions.

The government was accused this month [Sept. 2013] of delaying its annual report on greenhouse gas emissions – usually released in mid-summer – because it was universally expected to show a double-digit rise in carbon pollution.

The government is actually trying to bar people from having their work published in academic journals? Well, brava to Katie Gibbs and Evidence for Democracy for organizing the Sept. 16, 2013 rallies and their predecessor, the Death of Evidence Rally (for more info. about that previous event there’s my July 10, 2012 posting announcing and discussing the ‘Death of Evidence’ and my July 13, 2013 posting which featured a roundup of comments regarding the 2012 rally).

Interestingly the Evidence for Democracy’s (E4D) Board of Directors seems to be largely comprised of biologists (from the Who We Are webpage),

E4D’s Board of Directors

Katie Gibbs

Dr. Gibbs recently completed a PhD in Biology from the University of Ottawa and has a diverse background organizing and managing various causes and campaigns.

Scott Findlay

Dr.Findlay is an Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa and former Director of the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment.

Kathryn O’Hara

Ms. O’Hara is an Associate Professor of Journalism at Carleton University and holds the CTV Chair in Science Broadcast Journalism.

Susan Pinkus

Ms. Pinkus has a M.Sc. in conservation biology and community ecology and is a senior staff scientist at Ecojustice.

By pointing out the concentration of biologists within the E4D board, I’m trying to hint at the difficulty of communicating across disciplinary boundaries (biologists network with other biologists partly because it’s easier to find people who belong to the same organizations and attend the same conferences). When Canada’s geography is also taken into account, the fact that the group managed to organize events in 17 cities (also listed on the E4D Stand Up for Science webpage; scroll down about 40% of the page) across the country), according to Ivan Semeniuk’s Sept. 16, 2013, article about the rallies for the Globe and Mail newspaper, becomes quite laudable.

Matthew Robinson’s Sept. 17, 2013 article for the Vancouver Sun gives a BC (the city of Vancouver is located in the province of British Columbia,Canada) flavour to the proceedings,

David Suzuki [biologist], Alexandra Morton [biologist] and other prominent B.C.-based scientists rallied on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery Monday to decry what they called the continued muzzling of federal scientists and to reason for broadened science funding. ….

Separate from the protests, NDP science and technology critic Kennedy Stewart [Member of Parliament from BC] tabled Monday [Sept. 16, 2013] a motion for federal departments to permit scientists to speak freely to the media and the public.

The motion would, among other things, allow federal scientists to present personal viewpoints and prohibit elected officials, ministerial staff and communications officers from directing scientists to suppress or alter their findings.

Gibbs said the timing of the NDP motion was not co-ordinated.

Meanwhile, another group, Scientists for the Right to Know, has been emerging. From the About us page,

In 2012, a Working Group of Science for Peace started to look into the muzzling of science and scientists in Canada. Muzzling is a broad process that may be carried out by governments, industry, universities, and others. However, we quickly realized that the current federal government is actually waging a war on basic science. While other Canadian governments have engaged in muzzling as well, we have never witnessed the type of systematic attack on basic science that is happening right now in Canada.

We therefore decided to focus at present on the muzzling of science on the part of the federal government. We also decided that we needed to find a means to engage the public at large. The focus of our work shifted, then, from researching the issue to advocating for unmuzzled science. It became clear that the work the group was envisaging would exceed the mandate of Science for Peace –  education. We decided to form a new organization frankly devoted to advocacy.

The inaugural meeting of Scientists for the Right to Know took place in April 2013. We are currently in the process of incorporating as a non-profit organization. …

 

The organization has an executive comprised of three people (from the About us page),

 

President – Margrit Eichler

 

Treasurer – Phyllis Creighton

 

Secretary – Sue Kralik

 

Margrit Eichler is Professor Emerita of OISE/UT. She received her PhD in Sociology from Duke University.  She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the European Academy of Sciences, and  she received an honorary doctorate from Brock University. She has remained an activist during her entire  academic career.

 

Phyllis Creighton is a translations editor with the renowned Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada. She holds an MA in history from the University of Toronto. An ethicist and author — and Raging Granny–, she has long worked for peace, nuclear disarmament, human rights, social justice, conservation, and environmental protection. She holds the Anglican Award of Merit, the Order of Ontario, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.

 

Sue Kralik is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and earned a Master of Education degree at the University of Toronto. Sue recently retired as a school Principal. While working as a Principal, Sue led school based anti-war and social justice initiatives and remains committed to working for peace, social justice, and respect for the environment.

Interestingly, Scientists for the Right to Know has sprung forth from the Humanities and Social Sciences communities.

It’s  an exciting time for Canadian science culture;, I just wish the communication between these groups and other interested groups and individuals was better. That way, I (and, I suspect, other Canadian science bloggers) wouldn’t be left wondering how they managed to miss significant events such as the inception of the Evidence for Science group,and of the  Scientists for the Right to Know group, and the Stand Up for Science cross Canada rally.