Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Decline and Fall of Canadian Science

          At the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference Feb. 16 to 20 in Vancouver, one of the panel discussions was titled "the muzzling of Canada's federal scientists." 

http://www.embassymag.ca/page/printpage/scientist-02-29-2012 

           Many of the participants appeared openly surprised, puzzled or worried by recent modifications in protocols relating to Federally employed or supported scientists' media access. In the past Canada was often seen as a model of governmental transparency. We find these recent changes a bit ironical, not to say hypocritical, given the fact that the Harper government was elected on a platform of "law and order, transparency and responsible government". Ironic, too, since Canada is headed in the direction the US followed under the Administration of George Bush, jr when climate science supporting the global warming hypothesis was ignored or devaluated. Today, under the Obama Administration, the US has become more open, while Canada, traditionally the more liberal and open society, is becoming more closed, controled, defensive.

            Dr.
Francesca Grifo, one of the panelists on "The muzzling of Canada's federal scientists" discussion and senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists warned that re-establishing open communicatons will be an ardurous process. "The longer that this [restricted access] goes on, the more deeply embedded it becomes in the culture in the agencies, and the harder it is to turn back," she said. "You don't want a situation where a scientist is scared to open their mouths when something is desperately wrong, that can hurt lives in a very direct way." Dr. Grifo's warning needs to be taken very seriously, we feel. In the turbulent times ahead, it will be essential that we have confidence in our officials and leaders. We will be facing, in the next few decades, several critical transitions: from our current cheap oil economy to the "post peak" oil economy, the divisive challenges of climate change adaptation, global demographic pressures on dwindling non-renewable resources.. Failing an abiding confidence in our leaders, we will only face a future of political and social chaos..

                Here is a link to the full panel discussion at which Dr Grifo spoke:

http://hosting.desire2learncapture.com/StellarJay/4/watch/28.aspx 

                 It is interesting to note that, while the government was invited to participate in the panel, all invited participants declined (!!) Very telling piece of behavior that..

                Now what does Harperite "transparency" look like in practice, the transparency they promised us before they were elected? Well, in the past, reporters could call up an Environment Canada scientist, chat, and arrange an interview. Now calls are required to pass through a "filter" called "Media Relations". Good Lord, shades of the former Soviet Union, wouldn't you believe it! This is Canada we're talking about folks.. The idea seems to be: "no news is good news", "what the public doesn't know won't hurt them" (it will hurt them, of course, but we are dealing here with ideologues, no different - in reality - from those who oversaw the decline and fall of the Soviet Union). 

                En passant, it is interesting to note that the "muzzling" / "filtering" process imposed by the Harper government actually succeeds in introducing several new levels of beauracracy to science communication -  and this from a rabidly anti-beauracracy government so keen to cut services to the most disadvantaged members of society! Will wonders never cease? What the hell is going on with these guys? Did they never heard the words "consistency" or "integrity"..

                  Canada has recently lost its "PEARL" of arctic science research, the world renowned Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory. Once again, one wonders about the possible motivations for the irrational destruction of critically important data gathering infrastructure: "no news is good news?", "what the public doesn't know won't hurt them"..

http://forums.canadiancontent.net/news/104697-feds-cut-funding-key-science.html

"This loss comes at a highly significant time when Arctic conditions are changing rapidly: Witness the recent rapid loss of permafrost, the appearance of the first large Arctic ozone depletion last year and many other harbingers of significant Arctic change," the researchers said in a statement Tuesday.

"Without PEARL there will be no continuous active measurements in the High Arctic of many atmospheric quantities scientists believe greatly affect both our Arctic and the whole planet."

                    Public ethics is in deep water, folks, and sinking fast.


internal blog link: sep 19, 2011 http://transparencycanada.blogspot.com/2011/09/environmental-transparency-what-you.html
                  

              

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