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.