01 February 2014

Speak up for science

Our federal government's lamentable attitude to science, or at least any science that doesn't benefit business, is one of its key features. Nonetheless, Industry Canada is giving us a chance to comment on science and technology policy by inviting responses tn a "Consultation Paper." This is your chance to offer your comments on how our policy should develop.

You can read the paper and then write up your suggestions and email them in to the address provided or, if you would prefer an easier route, you can take advantage here of the message Evidence for Democracy has composed.

Will it do any good? Probably not. The government is focused on science and technology that creates jobs and growth to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, and that won't change. However, maybe if enough progressives make their views known, the government will be deflected just a little toward science designed to stimulate innovation in the public interest as well as in the private sector, science designed to benefit the environment, public transport, health care, social services, and so on. And of course science designed simply to expand our knowledge, the kind of science that leads to the big breakthroughs. We might even encourage our government to facilitate an easy flow of information between scientists, citizens and parliamentarians in order to stimulate highly-informed discussion and debate on science and related issues.

OK, so I'm getting carried away, but other than a few minutes to compose an email to Minister Rickford, what can you lose?


  1. It is the puffery of the document that is most annoying. Stephen Harper apparently leads the world in supporting research. However the piece is also clear (and repeats it a couple of times) that where Canada falls down is the lack of research being done by private enterprise. As we would expect in the sort of branch-plant economy encouraged by this government. This cannot be cured by making government and academic scientists work for private enterprise, as is the Harper solution.

  2. Britain's Astronomer Royal and past head of the Royal Society, Lord Martin Rees, has a forceful criticism of excessive, private sector science research in his book, "Our Final Hour."


    Rees contends that the shift of scientific research from government to private sector gives rise to both drawbacks and perils. Corporate research is conducted behind closed doors to safeguard its propriety. It is closely held and owned. That means it results in knowledge that is not broadly shared and may be delayed until it best suits the company. Worse still is that this corporate secrecy prevents the larger science community from identifying perils in research and sounding alarms.

    We recently read of labs in China and the U.S. developing new strains of smallpox virus ostensibly for the purpose of then developing new vaccines. Rees foresaw this in his book as creating the perfect opportunity for bio-terror or bio-error. These two threats, in Rees' opinion, reduce our species' prospects of surviving this century to a 50-50 proposition.