So, I am pretty excited. In July of this year, a colleague and I crafted a panel proposal for the forthcoming Canadian Science Policy Conference to be held in Calgary in November. The title of our proposal? How Governments Access Innovative Science in the Knowledge Economy. It was accepted!
There appears to be a growing gap between science and government in Canada. This has been touted as the ‘death of evidence’ in the media. We have seen recent cuts to federal science programs and in changes to legislation in Bill C-38. The topic of government’s ‘muzzling’ of scientists was also hotly debated at the AAAS meeting in Vancouver earlier this year.
This topic is an important one in Canada, and globally I would argue. Accurate, objective and independent science-based information is required to inform debate that precedes formation of government policy. In the context of agriculture, you might recall Bill C-474 (which failed in 2011), a Bill which sought to introduce non-science factors into the approval of new seed varieties. Examples like this raise the question of how, exactly, is objective science accessed by government to inform debates in what essentially are science-based questions?
Here are some possibilities from a Canadian perspective. The Prime Ministers’ Office may have access to in-house resources that script scientifically valid, analytical statements regarding a given topic or issue. But, alternatively, the process may end up being driven politically where Members of Parliament survey constituents that reach a ‘non-scientific’ consensus. How (and if) policymakers and government leaders get scientific information is a important part of the policy development process. The role of science in the process has substantial impacts for society as a whole. (See structure of Canadian Federal Government here).
Our panel, How Governments Access Innovative Science in the Knowledge Economy, which will include science and policy experts from North America and the UK will focus on how governments in Canada and other jurisdictions use science to build or shape policy. Panel experts will present, debate and discuss the various factors affecting policy development and decision-making pertaining to the role of science. The objective is to contrast and compare Canada with other jurisdictions such as the UK and the US.
If you have any thoughts on this; things that you would like to see discussed or ideas brought up with our panel of experts, please post them here. And stay tuned for follow up post after November 7th!