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Scientists at McMaster to discuss federal cuts

Cuts to federal programs and the so-called muzzling of scientists are the focus of a discussion at McMaster University Tuesday.

Event at McMaster includes a panel discussion with academics and environmentalists.

Federal science cuts prompt discussion at McMaster

Cuts to federal programs and the so-called muzzling of scientists are the focus of a discussion at McMaster University Tuesday.

Science and environmental advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy is organizing free screenings across Ontario of CBC’s Fifth Estate program, Silence of the Labs.

Tuesday's event at McMaster includes a panel discussion with academics and environmentalists.

“You can’t watch this documentary without getting angry,” said John Wilbur, a Hamilton environmental activist who moderated the panel.

“We’ve closed down programs and laid off scientists. In the end, I decided I needed to do something.”

The documentary, which originally aired last year, focuses on cuts to more than 2,000 scientists and hundreds of programs, including those that monitored smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality and climate change.

One of the panelists is Patricia Chow-Fraser, a biology professor at McMaster University. Chow-Fraser said the shift in federal grants for research means scientists like her must spin their proposals to show the economic benefits of their research. Her current projects focus on the health of the wetlands in and around the Great Lakes.

But the federal government maintains that its investment in science has remained constant.

"Our government has made record investments in science. We are working to strengthen partnerships to get more ideas from the lab to the marketplace and increase our wealth of knowledge. Research is vibrant and flourishing right across the country,"  said the office of the Minister of State for Science and Technology in a statement last January.

Chow-Fraser said cuts to federal science programs have actually benefited her because she said the government is now outsourcing a good deal of its research.

“What I worry about is the future, for my students,” said Chow-Fraser. “Eventually they would have gone into government positions. What are they going to do unless something changes?”

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