Let our results be heard!

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image: Huffington Post

image: Huffington Post

Article: Dylan Criddle – Contributor

Federally employed scientists recently began protesting the federal government to raise awareness to the recent muzzling of scientific discussion. In recent years, many publically funded scientists have been prevented from sharing their findings with the scientific community and the media. Government representatives have often been present at press conferences and interviews to prevent scientists from sharing information that would put a negative spotlight on federal policy. The widely accepted theory is that this has been done to prevent scientific findings, putting a negative light on government policies concerning the environment and industry.

If the federal government is worried about scientific findings raising questions on their environmental policy, they should recognize it as a wasted effort. The public doesn’t need ground-breaking studies to understand that environmental protection hasn’t been properly implemented. They already know that reducing protection of freshwater bodies for mining and refining purposes has detrimental effects. They already know that increased dependence on fossil fuels is detrimental to our pathetic attempt to decrease carbon emissions. Sheltering the public from scientific knowledge only asserts that their environmental policy is formed by politics, not evidence.

Muzzling researchers isn’t the only way the government is combatting the spread of scientific knowledge. Federally-funded research programs have seen significant cuts over the last several years. When I worked for the SPARC research center in Swift Current a year ago, they had just seen several researcher positions get slashed due to funding cuts. The Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s habitat management program has been essentially eliminated, and with it, an effective research squad on harmful anthropogenic effects on fish habitat. With funding cuts combined with findings shielded with the public, the Conservative government has sent a clear message. Public perception is more important than intelligent policy.

Letting political opinion and popularity come before come before scientists’ findings shows just how much the federal government values ignorance. The scientific method is an exemplary example of evidence-based decision-making. Studies not only need to produce conclusions, but also need to have sound methods so that other professionals can replicate them. The amount of record keeping that scientists have to conduct to support their findings is enough to make a librarian go insane. What’s left after this tedious process are findings supported by a strong, collection of evidence. Whereas political opinion can always be criticized and questioned, soundly performed studies tend to leave little room for skepticism.

Public funding is one of the most important sources of income for scientists in Canada. If scientists are unable to exchange ideas with the public and their peers, most of this money goes to waste. The purpose of their research is to further improve our understanding of the world around us, and should not be compromised for the sake of a popularity contest. If the Conservatives don’t have the appreciation for science to at least properly fund their programs, they should at least have enough respect for them to allow them to share their findings with the community.

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