Science Policy

Academics unimpressed with Ottawa’s new research fund
Publish Date: 10-DEC-2014 08:55 AM
The Canada First Research Excellence Fund seems to be the Harper government’s response to fierce criticism about its science policies. It was announced with much fanfare last week (although it had appeared in the spring budget) by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an unprecedented investment to strengthen Canada’s position in the world of science. But it came on the heels of an uproar in the scientific community over the imminent shuttering of a world-class science facility at the University of Ottawa, highlighting precisely what many critics believe is wrong with the Conservatives’ approach to science. 
 
Critics ask why Canada hasn't blocked international trade in 76 endangered species
Publish Date: 10-DEC-2014 08:53 AM
Recently released documents indicate the federal government has reservations about restricting international trade in endangered species — more of them than almost any other government on Earth. The papers show that Canada has opted out of nearly every resolution to protect endangered species taken at last year's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Delegates from 180 countries voted to extend protections to 76 plant and animal species from soft-shelled turtles to tropical hardwoods.  
 
Au nom de la science (French)
Publish Date: 10-DEC-2014 08:50 AM
Irrités par les interventions du gouvernement Harper, les scientifiques fédéraux ont concocté un répulsif inusité: des clauses à insérer dans leur convention collective. Reste à voir si le remède sera homologué. 
 
Science shouldn’t be all business
Publish Date: 09-DEC-2014 08:44 AM
Last Thursday, during a visit to IBM headquarters in Markham, Ont., Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled his government’s science and technology strategy. Like all Harper government-branded products, it has a grandiose title: “Seizing Canada’s Moment: Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation” – and features the buzzword du jour, “innovation.” It also opens with some bons mots from the PM himself… What the Prime Minister announced was not really a science strategy, but a business strategy – and a short-sighted, self-serving one at that. 
 
Shifting Sands: How Energy is Shaping Canada’s Foreign Policy
Publish Date: 09-DEC-2014 08:41 AM
The recent rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline project in November by the United States Senate is only the latest chapter of an ongoing saga reflecting a dramatic shift in Canada’s foreign relations in recent years. The Canadian government has been engaging in an aggressive public relations campaign for its booming oil and gas industry. The strategy includes prominent marketing and behind-the-scenes lobbying in close partnership with oil industry executives. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, first elected in 2006, has long maintained his goal was to make Canada an energy superpower. But he has also changed the country’s role and policies in international climate change efforts as a means to achieve that goal. 
 
Negotiate *this*
Publish Date: 09-DEC-2014 08:39 AM
Last week, the union that represents government scientists (PIPSC, my former union) tabled a bold negotiating position with Treasury Board (the branch of the government that you negotiate with when you’re a Union), as reported by the Ottawa Citizen. Rather than making it about salary increases, or sick days, as one might have expected, their negotiating position puts the notion of scientific integrity front and centre. My first reaction upon reading a summary of their position was something like “Hell, yes”. 
 
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? 
 
Public service union using science as a bargaining chip
Publish Date: 08-DEC-2014 08:11 AM
The union representing federal scientists and researchers is in contract negotiations this week, and there's more on the table than salaries and benefits. PIPSC is pushing for a 'scientific integrity' policy, which would include changes to protect scientists' right to speak publicly about their research, without government interference. Debi Daviau, president of PIPSC, joined us with the details. 
 
Public-interest science missing from new federal science strategy
Publish Date: 07-DEC-2014 02:42 PM
The federal government has just released the revised and updated Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I) strategy along with details of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, originally announced in the 2014 budget. “It is unbelievable that the federal government could release a science strategy that only pays lip-service to the research done by government departments and agencies,” says Dr. Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. “Government research is the core of public-interest science in Canada and crucial for the protecting the health, safety and well being of Canadians.” 
 
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.  
 
Canadian government continues valiant fight in the war against science
Publish Date: 04-DEC-2014 02:31 PM
Canadian scientists are protesting major changes to public research funding which will considerably increase their reliance on industry partners and decrease funding for basic scientific research. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Canada's main funding source for health science research, has announced plans to slash baseline funding of all research institutes in half, with the slashed funds diverted to a common pool available to any area of health research. To access these funds, researchers will need to obtain additional funding from external sources such as industry. "At least eight" of the 13 CIHR institute boards, as well as individual researchers, have written to CIHR to protest the upcoming changes. The CIHR governing council is appointed by the federal government in 3-year unpaid terms. Its 18 members include politicians, academic researchers, directors of healthcare institutes, and industry representatives. 
 
Scientists will be forced to knock on doors under health research grant changes
Publish Date: 03-DEC-2014 10:42 AM
There’s a new controversy raging in Canada’s scientific community as word spreads about impending changes to the country’s major health science research organization. In what has been called a "rebellion," emails are flying as scientists share news about a recent decision by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Governing Council. They say it will force scientists to shop around for matching external funds before they can access public money that used to be granted with no strings attached. 
 
Federal Government Scientists Seek to Protect Scientific Integrity Through Collective Bargaining
Publish Date: 03-DEC-2014 10:36 AM
Federal government scientists are upping the ante in their dispute with the Harper government over continuing cuts to federal science programs and the muzzling of federal government scientists by bringing their concerns directly to the bargaining table. This week, the union representing federal government scientists will table a proposal that would obligate the government to negotiate scientific integrity policies, ensuring adequate public standards of science and support for science are upheld. "Preserving scientific integrity within the federal government is crucial to ensure we can continue to protect Canadians' health, safety and the environment as well as promote genuine innovation," says Debi Daviau, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents approximately 15,000 federal government scientists, engineers and researchers.  
 
Musellement: les scientifiques fédéraux passent par leur convention collective (French)
Publish Date: 03-DEC-2014 10:32 AM
Las d’être «muselés» par le gouvernement Harper, les scientifiques du gouvernement fédéral adoptent une voie originale: celle de négocier des clauses de protection de l’intégrité de leur travail dans leurs conventions collectives. L’Institut professionnel de la fonction publique du Canada, qui représente quelque 15 000 scientifiques à l’emploi du gouvernement fédéral, présente à la table de négociation une proposition qui obligera le fédéral à négocier des clauses protégeant la liberté d’expression des scientifiques fédéraux, le réinvestissement dans les programmes de recherche et la protection du savoir et des bibliothèques scientifiques. 
 
Public sector union to take muzzled science issue to bargaining table
Publish Date: 03-DEC-2014 10:30 AM
The union representing government scientists, engineers and professionals says its next contract demands will include an integrity policy to free up muzzled researchers and promote evidence-based policy making. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents 55,000 federal employees, says a scientific-integrity policy is needed to ensure innovation and to protect public health, safety and the environment. 
 
Canadian Unions to Bargain for Scientific Integrity Reform
Publish Date: 03-DEC-2014 10:27 AM
As Canadian government scientists start bargaining for their next contract, they aren’t asking for more sick days or a sizable raise—they’re asking for scientific integrity protections, such as the ability to share their research regardless of the results. To put it simply, Canadian scientists are prioritizing the public interest over their own self-interest. On the table will be the right to speak publicly about their work, collaborate with peers, access scientific literature, and have adequate funding to carry out their responsibilities. The unions are also asking for federal departments to be required to develop enforceable policies that would protect researchers and hold those who manipulate or suppress science accountable. 
 
Scientists seeking greater freedoms
Publish Date: 02-DEC-2014 02:33 PM
Canada's federal scientists are pushing the boundaries of traditional collective bargaining in the Public Service. They are going to the bargaining table with an unprecedented package of contract changes to promote "scientific integrity" in government, including the right of scientists to speak freely and forbidding political interference in their work. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents more than 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, said it had released its negotiating position "in the public interest", comprising a list of demands for Treasury Board negotiators.  
 
Scientists push for ‘scientific integrity’ at bargaining table
Publish Date: 02-DEC-2014 10:25 AM
Canada’s federal scientists are going to the bargaining table this week with an unprecedented package of contract changes to promote “scientific integrity” in government, including the right of scientists to speak freely and forbidding political interference in their work. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents more than 15,000 scientists, researchers and engineers, is tabling a negotiating position for managing science in the “public interest” with a list of demands for Treasury Board negotiators that dramatically push the boundaries of traditional collective bargaining in the public service. 
 
Canada could be a world leader in innovation
Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:19 AM
Innovation and productivity drive economic growth. They allow countries to lead in today’s fast-paced global economy. They can raise living standards for everyone (if distributed fairly!). Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said, “Productivity isn’t everything, but, in the long-run, it is almost everything.” For three decades, Canada has been lagging behind similar countries when it comes to innovation. Until about 1980, Canada largely kept up with productivity and innovation in the United States. By 1984, our relative productivity slipped to 90 per cent of the U.S.—a decline, but still respectable. By 2007, our productivity was just 74 per cent of the U.S. From 1980 until 2011, productivity grew at just 1.4 per cent annually, compared to 2.2 per cent in the U.S.A. Our Conference Board of Canada has consistently ranked Canada near the bottom of the largest industrial economies in terms of productivity and innovation. This productivity gap costs the Canadian economy billions of dollars and countless jobs each year. 
 
Is innovation an election issue ?
Publish Date: 01-DEC-2014 10:18 AM
Since 2006, at least a dozen major reports about innovation in Canada have come to three identical conclusions. First, future growth and prosperity depend upon innovation. Second, Canada is not very good at it. Third, what we are doing about it is not working. Such conclusions attract broad political and industry agreement. But it has been nearly two decades since any federal government has taken substantive coordinated action on this file. And as we enter an election year, there is little indication that any of the contenders have this issue on their radar.