Evidence based planning has taken a hit in Canada and public scientists have been replaced by “media relations” officers as the purvayers of truth, compelling the union that represents public scientists to take action.
“If the science isn’t supported … then you’re going to find that decisions are going to be made more at the political level,” Gary Corbett, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said Monday as the union launched a website called publicscience.ca. (CBC)
PublicScience.ca is a new initiative sponsored by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.
The site aims to highlight science done for the public good – much of it taxpayer-funded and carried out by government scientists – and to “mobilize” scientists and the public to pressure politicians to support it. It features interviews with federal scientists about their work, along with interviews with science policy experts. (CBC)
Part of what inspired the creation of PublicScience.ca was the cancellation of the Long-Form Census
The decision to replace the mandatory long-form census with a voluntary questionnaire over the objection of professional statisticians was one more step in what the union calls a worrying trend on the part of the government to discount the importance of the work of its scientists. (Globe and Mail)
This was also echoed in the CBC article
“The recent decision to end the mandatory long-form census is the latest step in a worrying trend away from evidence-based policy-making,” said the union in a news release announcing the campaign. “Restrictive rules are curtailing media and public access to scientists, while cutbacks to research and monitoring limit Canada’s ability to deal with serious threats and potential opportunities.”
Corbett said what happened to the long-form census despite evidence provided by Statistics Canada scientists is also happening in other departments. He worked as a scientist at Natural Resources Canada for more than two decades before taking a leave to do union work.
This initiative combined with Open Government discussions over at the Information Commissioner’s Office and the innovation of some of Canada’s Open Data Cities (Nanaimo, Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, Calgary Edmonton, London, Missassauga, Toronto & Ottawa – see datalibre.ca resources), data sharing mandated by science funding like IPY and the Canadian Institute of Health Research Policy on Open Access might lead us to have real conversations about science, technology and informed social policy in Canada.