Scientific Advice

Scientists depend on the power of reason
Publish Date: 04-JAN-2015 09:29 AM
Damage to science today stems from demand by policy-makers that outcomes of scientific research be evident in advance of the research being performed.  
 
Waterloo woman finds NEB e-mail lauding public’s inability to question pipelines
Publish Date: 09-DEC-2014 08:48 AM
A Waterloo resident – now credited with finding crucial flaws in Enbridge’s Line 9 reversal pipeline in Southwest Ontario -- is sounding the alarm over an internal e-mail from the National Energy Board that appears to boast about new Harper government rules that reduce the public’s ability to ask questions at pipeline hearings. Louisette Lanteigne uncovered the e-mail via an Access to Information request. In the report attached to the memo, the NEB’s Hearing Manager for Oil Pipeline Applications told colleagues about the “successes” of a recently concluded Line 9A pipeline hearing in the summer of 2012. 
 
Demoting top public health scientist wrongheaded
Publish Date: 08-DEC-2014 08:13 AM
Buried in the current omnibus budget bill currently being studied by Parliament is a plan to demote the chief public health officer of Canada. He will no longer hold a deputy minister rank, he will have no direct line to the federal minister of health, he will be subservient to a bureaucratic agency president and he will have no secure public funding. The new chief public health officer has said he is in favour of this plan, as shrugging off managerial oversight for the Public Health Agency will free him to provide scientific advice. That may be so, but will anybody be listening? Will he even be allowed to speak? 
 
Pseudo-science in the House? Scientists challenge a bill on Lyme disease
Publish Date: 04-DEC-2014 02:40 PM
This week, infectious disease specialists stood before a Senate committee to voice their concerns about proposed legislation on a national Lyme disease strategy. They say the bill's preamble dismisses accepted evidence and is "anti-science". Brent speaks to Dr. William Bowie who represented the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Canada at the Senate hearing this week, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May who sponsored the private member's bill.  
 
Stephen Harper government confuses science for mere opinion
Publish Date: 02-DEC-2014 10:23 AM
The current government has repeatedly proclaimed its belief in the importance of scientific evidence. In March 2013, then-Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver advanced the view that U.S. President Barack Obama is — on the Keystone XL issue, at least — “driven by facts,” adding “and that’s what drives us as well.” He reiterated this assertion several months later in response to a blistering New York Times editorial that accused the Harper government of muzzling government scientists in an “attempt to guarantee public ignorance.” Americans, said Oliver, are entitled to their opinions but he would find it “refreshing if they confined themselves to the facts and science.” 
 
Canada can be a global innovation leader
Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:00 AM
I met recently with Jonathan Bagger, the new director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics. TRIUMF is becoming an innovation driver in nuclear medicine and materials science. It collaborates extensively, with 18 member universities across Canada, and a range of international partnerships. Dr. Bagger, well-known in the world of physics, was himself recruited from the United States after an international search. A successful research enterprise requires the best and brightest lead researchers. A search for those leaders is necessarily international. International collaboration facilitates innovation and should be encouraged. We must focus on talent retention and recruitment and a commitment to repairing Canada’s damaged international reputation in the science, technology and innovation community. 
 
Driving Innovation – are we there yet ?
Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 09:58 AM
‘There has been no effective mobilization of advice and counsel from outside the public service and responsibility for the expansion of various activities has been borne by individual ministers without any evidence of their relation to national policy as a whole.’ (J. Grant Glassco, Commissioner, 1963) This salient observation on the country’s national science activities by the Glassco Royal Commission on Government Organization could easily have been written today. Canadian governments and their public service have been experimenting on how to mobilize knowledge assets and advice ever since. A key dimension of all of these ventures over the five decades since that landmark report has been the innovation within the country’s science and innovation policies. 
 
Why Canada needs a Parliamentary science officer
Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 09:56 AM
Beginning with the elimination of Canada’s national science advisor in 2008, the Harper government has used every tool at its disposal to prevent, limit, and restrict public scientists from sharing their research findings with Canadians and policy-makers. Statistics Canada data reveals the Conservatives have slashed over $1-billion in S&T funding and laid off 4000 federal researchers since forming a majority in 2011. Now, an open letter signed by more 800 independent scientists from 32 countries urges the government to restore funding for public science and end the burdensome restrictions on communication and collaboration faced by Canadian scientists. 
 
Letter: Closing of facility is another blow to scientific research
Publish Date: 28-NOV-2014 08:41 AM
On Friday, Nov. 21, the National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids in Ottawa announced that it must close because of inadequate funding. This unique, multi-million dollar facility, opened in 2005, overseen by an international advisory committee, is a world-renowned scientific facility dedicated to the study of solid materials using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. It has been a source of pride among Canadian scientists and the envy of the scientific community around the world. 
 
Get Science Right town hall in Ottawa lays the groundwork for a new direction for science policy
Publish Date: 27-NOV-2014 08:33 AM
Leading researchers are meeting with politicians and the public to share their concerns about what is happening to science in Canada tonight at the Westin Hotel Ottawa at 6:30pm. Moderated by science journalist Mike De Souza, panellists will describe how scientific work in Canada is being affected by federal government policies and what this means for Canadians. Members of the audience are invited to join the discussion with questions and comments. 
 
Scientific community ralliers behind NDP proposal for independent science watchdog
Publish Date: 26-NOV-2014 08:30 AM
Important members of the scientific community are endorsing the NDP’s proposal to create an independent science watchdog with responsibility to curb the muzzling of public scientists and provide Parliament with sound information and expert advice on scientific issues. 
 
Fracking review panel : independent of what, exactly ?
Publish Date: 19-NOV-2014 02:21 PM
A little over a month ago, the provincial government announced the composition of its “independent” panel to review fracking in the province. As many of us are aware, the panel was announced in August as follow-up to the temporary moratorium on fracking which resulted from massive public opposition to a proposal to introduce the controversial method of oil and gas extraction on the west coast of the island. And although the panel hasn’t yet met, it’s already drawing fire from many quarters. I’ll leave it to others to critique the backgrounds and expertise of those who are on the panel. My own critique would centre on who is not on the panel. There are some serious gaps, and these offer the most telling condemnation of the process. 
 
Budget Bill: Government refocuses public health czar’s job
Publish Date: 23-OCT-2014 08:40 AM
The Conservatives plan to create a new public health czar to focus solely on advising the government on public health issues.The move is part of the sweeping changes introduced in the Conservatives’ latest budget implementation bill, which was tabled in Parliament Thursday… But Daviau wasn’t as optimistic about the Conservatives’ plans for a Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, which she said was an inadequate attempt to replace Canada’s northernmost research lab, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut. 
 
Scientists rail against imposed ignorance: Goar
Publish Date: 02-OCT-2014 11:18 AM
A year ago, a handful of Toronto scientists decided they could no longer watch helplessly as the government of Canada systematically stifled information on everything from climate change to drug safety. They formed a collective called Scientists for the Right to Know. This week, they held a public forum at the Munk School of Global Affairs. It was called Imposed Ignorance, a panel discussion highlighting what Canadians are losing and why it matters. 
 
St. Lawrence belugas on verge of population ‘catastrophe’ : researcher
Publish Date: 28-SEP-2014 10:02 AM
A researcher monitoring belugas in the St. Lawrence estuary is warning of a looming "catastrophe" after another difficult calving season for the endangered whale. The belugas have been in a slow population decline for the past decade, according to Robert Michaud, the scientific director of Quebec's Marine Mammals Research and Education Group. 
 
Harper ramps up his war on independent thought
Publish Date: 27-SEP-2014 09:41 AM
In the conservative quest to shape public debate in recent years, no tool has proved more useful than the think tank. Nobody understood this better than the director of the ultra-right wing U.S.-based ATLAS Foundation, who once stated that his mission was “to litter the world with free-market think tanks.” 
 
Energy East oil terminal threatens belugas: federal scientists
Publish Date: 27-SEP-2014 08:59 AM
A stunning Quebec Superior Court injunction that temporarily halted exploratory work on a major cross-Canada oilsands pipeline project is raising fresh questions about whether the Canadian government muzzled a top scientist while reviewing the industry proposal. At least two federal departments, Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, gave a green light for the exploratory work, including major drilling and seismic testing in the port of Cacouna, Quebec, in the heart of the critical habitat of threatened St. Lawrence beluga whales. 
 
North-South Institute latest casualty of Ottawa’s war on evidence
Publish Date: 23-SEP-2014 08:18 AM
The North-South Institute announced earlier this month that it is closing following funding cuts by the federal government. This news couldn’t come at a worse time. As a non-partisan research organization, the North-South Institute’s contribution to international development issues through a specifically Canadian lens was immeasurable. 
 
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives Champion Democracy for Ukraine – for Canada, Not So Much
Publish Date: 19-SEP-2014 08:38 AM
Enthusiasm for fundamental democratic principles at home is under increasing threat, from social activism to scientific research. Perhaps the longest and most complete muzzling of freedom of expression has befallen federal government scientists, particularly those working in the areas of the environment and natural resources, in other words, the tar sands. 
 
Canadian government declines interviews on oilsands health impacts
Publish Date: 05-SEP-2014 11:19 AM
Who are Health Canada’s experts assessing human health impacts of oilsands development? And why has the federal government never done a comprehensive study of health impacts in the region after more than half a century of industrial development?