Standing up for science… which supports your opinion

This morning across Canada, the “Standing Up For Science” rallies are taking place.

The rallies are organized by a group called “Evidence for Democracy,” an unnamed, faceless, self-described “not-for-profit” operating out of Ottawa.

Their cause sounds noble enough, and we certainly support their vision statement, as well as their cause, described as:

Join us in calling on the Federal government to make a strong commitment to science in the public interest by:

  • Funding scientific research from basic science through to applied.
  • Using the best available science and evidence to make the best decisions.
  • Supporting the open communication of publicly funded science to the public, unless there are demonstrably good reasons for not doing so.

Sounds great. Who could argue with that?

Unfortunately, judging by the promotion these rallies got prior to today, and by the activity on the official #StandUp4Science Twitter hashtag, “Standing up for science” seems to mostly mean railing against corporations and the Harper government.

Here in Vancouver, the rally is sure to be dominated by environmental activists, student union activists and feature very few actual scientists. And across Canada, expect most of the discussion to be about oilsands and climate change science.

Because these rallies were tainted from the start. They’re not really about standing up for science, they’re about standing up for science which supports your opinion.

Because there’s plenty of publicly-funded Canadian science out there, available for the public to read, with the same availability as anything else. If it gets published in a journal, it’s available (depending on the journal’s paywall policies).

But what these rallies seem to be asking for is unprecedented access to talk to government-funded scientists, to get them to opine about their research so environmental groups can use those opinions, picking and choosing the quotes they want, to support their campaigns.

Maybe that’s cynical. Maybe it isn’t.

We certainly agree that government scientists should be able to talk about their research.

But should they be able to be used as political weapons against the government? That’s totally inappropriate.

The general public has a weak understanding of science. To improve that, the supporters of “Evidence 4 Democracy” should be lobbying for better science education in our school systems, not grasping at government scientists to use them as pawns in their political ideological wars.

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3 thoughts on “Standing up for science… which supports your opinion”

  1. Not only cynical but well off the mark. You may remember Bill C-38, which gutted the Fisheries Act. That alone is reason enough for these protests. Numerous government scientists have spoken out against the decline in research funding through the Harper government. Your assertion that there is ‘plenty’ of publicly-funded science out there is, at best, a half truth. To dismiss these concerns because, as always, radical environmentalists with an agenda will be present and making noise is ridiculous. For a blog titled ‘Salmon Farm Science’ you’ve certainly left the science aspect out of this post, choosing to instead focus on rhetoric.

    1. You nailed it. These are political protests. They are not about science. That’s what this opinion piece was about.

      We do not defend the government or Bill C-38. And like we said, we support the spirit of the “Stand up for Science” idea.

      But these rallies have been turned into protests, and are a waste of everyone’s time. Instead of organizing rallies across the country in another thinly-veiled anti-Conservative campaign, these people should be lobbying for better science education in our school systems.

    2. Like the authors of this blog I support spirit of this campaign, but I believe that organizers and participating activists merely want science to conform to their own opinions. If it does not, then the scientists were either bought-off by industry or they are incompetent. Activists need to take the good with the bad when it comes to science and start being objective about it – don’t automatically dismiss it if it doesn’t conform to firmly held views.

      If you look at what some of these environmental activists have been doing with the science already published you will see they do anything but “Stand Up For Science”. They either badly misinterpret what is clearly published or they take select quotes from the scientific literature or expert testimony during judicial inquiries to make their case. For instance, BC fish farm activists refuse to acknowledge most of what Dr. Kristi Miller had to say during the Cohen Inquiry, editing most of it out in their latest propaganda film – yet they complain that she was being muzzled. Kind of a contradiction. They even did the same thing with Dr. Nylund and Dr. Kibenge. Fish farm activists that engage in this conduct (i.e. Morton, Roscovich) are actually doing a disservice to science. They realized that some Dr. Miller’s testimony does not follow their opinions and theories so they edited what they want to take from it and falsely claim later that they represented the scientist fairly. It is a fairly easy exercise to see what Dr. Miller said and what fish farm activists took from it. The protest should be called, “Standing Up Against the Abuse of Science”. If they really want Dr. Miller to be heard then critics need to stop being hypocritical and start walking the walk and talking the talk.

      There is plenty of publicly-funded science out there. For instance, look at the 12 plus years of research done by Scott Hinch’s group and the funding it has received from sources such as NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council). Check out the Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. I would like to see more funding and education (as eluded to by the author of this blog), but to say it is a “half truth” doesn’t really cut it.

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