What’s the buzz (or not) around Canadian science policy?

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by Pascal Lapointe and Karine Morin

Policy and Politics subject editors

OK, science bloggers, come here, we have to chat about something. Science Borealis is about blogging, right? About Canadian science blogging, right? Now. How is it possible that a quick search on Science Borealis reveals nothing, not one single post, about the federal consultation on science from February, and the federal budget in March?

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PM Stephen Harper announces funding in 2011 for the Let’s Talk Science math and science program for students. Does Canada’s science & technology policy continue investing in – and building – our science capacity? (Photo: pmwebphotos; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Now, we know that this federal consultation was short and quick. That was the essence of this post by Quebec journalist Valérie Borde, and this French-speaking podcast on science and policy. But with all those great minds and writers, was there nothing more to say in English?

Even with the federal budget last month, reaction was minimal considering that it seemed to be a (good) surprise for researchers. In his blog, journalist Jean-François Cliche saw it as possibly “the beginning” of a move towards more basic research. More optimistically, mathematician Nassif Ghoussoub sees it as “a paradigm shift”. What do you think?

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The Bombardier B7 was conceived in Canada in 1937 (this model was built in 1939). Is Canada still at the cutting edge of technological innovation? (Photo: Canadian Science & Technology Museum; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Science and policy: talking, or not?

Au-delà de ces actualités, il y a eu beaucoup à se mettre sous la dent ces derniers mois. Archi Rastogi, en référence à deux articles parus dans Nature, propose par exemple une réflexion sur le non-dialogue entre science et politique, en l’expliquant par le titre « scientists are from Mars, policymakers from Venus ».

Également sur le blogue Science & Policy Exchange, qui nous provient des étudiants de l’Université McGill—ceux qui organisent depuis 2010 le congrès annuel du même nom—on peut lire un billet d’Andrea Lai sur le financement de la science (incluant un paragraphe sur le budget). In The Black Hole, David Kent also talks about research funding, but around one specific topic: internationalization. Are we “going too far in encouraging trainee relocation?”

Funding, by the way, was recently the topic of an excellent report in the New York Times on “privatization” of research by those generous-but-a-little-too-focused-billionaires (un résumé en français est ici).

On a related topic, Kelly Holloway, guest blogger for The Black Hole, posted a critical view on what he feels is too much of an “entrepreneurial mindset” behind last November’s Canadian Science Policy Conference.

And the muzzling of Canadian scientists was still on the mind of Monika Viktorova, who revisited last October’s damning report from the federal scientists’ union, which stated that “90% of federal scientists do not feel that they can freely discuss their work in the media.”

By the way, as of March 19th, Canada has a new Minister of State for Science and Technology: Ed Holder. See this (rare) portrait of him in the Globe and Mail.

Better dialogue between science and policy also means  learning how to communicate to a non-scientist. Like doing a TED talk.

Policy for science

The distinction between “science for policy” and “policy for science” is a common one in this field, and various blogs help illustrate the difference.

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