KSJ Tracker September 16, 2013

Standing Up for Science in Canada

Early last year, I wrote a piece here at Tracker called "The Science Reporting Chill" in Canada, focused on dismay by science journalists in that country over government muzzling of scientists.  And this was no lightweight muzzling: information about global climate change was so sharply restricted by the government that one news analysis found stories on the subject had dwindled by some 80 percent.

As Charlie Petit noted here this May, since that time the government has only tightened that grip on information. So much so that country's high-profile magazine, McLean's, described the policies as Orwellian.  And I'll refer you to a post written by Petit, also in May, about a Canadian plan to only invest in applied research titled "Canadian Government says the only research really worth its time has to make money. Fast."

No wonder then that "Stand Up for Science" protests were organized across the country this week. Although they've received no real coverage here in the United States (make that none, so far), The Guardian posted a story today that focuses on the way organizers are trying to push back against censorship.

In Canada, the radio program Quirks and Quarks posted a blog entry in support of the rallies. The Toronto-based Globe and Mail noted that the protests were scheduled in 16 cities and that the organizers, an advocacy group called Evidence for Democracy, said other cities were now asking to join in. 

The protests, wrote reporter Ivan Semeniuk, represent " the latest and most widespread public reaction from Canadian scientists to policies they say have stripped away funding for basic research, stifled evidence based decision-making in government and limited public access to federal scientists." And these are issues that we should pay attention to and worry about in every country.

Among western democracies, Canada may be the most dramatic model of this problem at the moment. But it doesn't stand alone.

--- Deborah Blum


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