A new era of optimism for science in Canada appears to have emerged. Within days of taking the political power, the Federal Liberal government reinstated the long-form census and government scientists have once again been given permission to speak directly to the media and the public.
Do these changes herald a new, more important role for science in government-decision making?
Dr. Katie Gibbs, cofounder and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, will address this question in a public talk Evidence for Democracy: is science on the rise? on Tuesday, January 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.
Canadian government scientists play a key role in safeguarding our environment, air, water, and food. They are also extensively involved in the review and regulation of industrial and consumer products such as pesticides and medicine. Scientists’ ability to communicate freely about their work and their concerns to the media and to the public is paramount to ensure government decision-making is supported by the best available science.
A number of government actions in recent years have weakened our foundation of informed decision-making. These changes have happened in three distinct ways: reduction in the ability of government scientists to communicate their research to the public, the erosion of our science capacity – especially with respect to fundamental research and environmental monitoring, and a reduction in the role of evidence in policy decisions.
“The impacts of these changes go far beyond science,” asserts Dr. Gibbs. “Science and evidence are essential elements of a functioning democracy, which requires informed citizens and transparent decision-making.”
The recent changes invoked by the Liberals are promising but there is still much work to be done. This includes the need to enshrine the right of scientists to open communication in formal policies and the rebuilding of our research capacity through publically funded science.
Katie Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa researching threats to endangered species, she was one of the lead organizers of the ‘Death of Evidence’ rally – one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. She has a diverse background organizing and managing various social and political campaigns at the local and national level. Dr. Gibbs is frequently asked to comment on science policy issues and has been quoted and published in numerous media outlets, including the CBC, The Hill Times, the Globe and Mail and the National Post.
The Science in Society Speaker Series (a joint project by Okanagan Science Centre and the Okanagan College) is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.
Admission is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. To subscribe or obtain more information about the Science in Society Speaker Series, visit okanagansisss.wordpress.com.