Science Under Siege, Part 1
Are we living through an Anti-Scientific Revolution? Scientists around the world are increasingly restricted in what they can research, publish and say -- constrained by belief and ideology from all sides. Historically, science has always had a thorny relationship with institutions of power. But what happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research? And how can science lift the siege? CBC Radio producer Mary Lynk looks for some answers in this three-part series. **This episode originally aired June 3, 2015.
Science Under Siege, Part 1: Dangers of Ignorance
Explores the historical tension between science and political power and the sometimes fraught relationship between the two over the centuries. But what happens when science gets sidelined? What happens to societies which turn their backs on curiosity-driven research?
Ed Holder, The Minister of State ( Science and Technology) was unavailable for an interview for this documentary series. A statement from the ministry was given instead - "highlighting some of the federal government's programs and policies on communicating federal science and our support for scientific research."
"Our Government has made record investments in science, technology and innovation.
In fact, Canada is ranked number one in the G-7 in terms of our support for research and development at our colleges, universities and other research institutes. Last year, our government made a significant commitment to world leading Canadian discovery and applied research through the creation of the legacy $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund- the primary request of Canada's universities last year. This year's budget continues our strong commitment to Canadian universities, colleges and research institutes by making the single largest investment in research infrastructure, laboratories and equipment in Canadian history through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. At the same time, our government is looking to continue to build bridges between Canadian universities, colleges and businesses, as demonstrated by our increased support for MITACs, an organization creating new career paths for highly talented Canadian students through R&D focused internships and fellowships at Canadian businesses.
In terms of communicating the results of federal science, Ministers are the primary spokespersons for government departments; scientists have, and are readily available to share their research with Canadians. For instance, Canadian federal departments and agencies produce over 4,000 science publications per year in areas important to the health, safety, and economic prosperity of Canadians. Additionally, in order to share the results of federally funded research more widely with Canadians, the new Open Access Policy will ensure that the results of research funded by the federal granting councils are freely available online within 12 months of publication in a peer reviewed journal. The policy will make the results of federally funded research more freely available to Canadians, providing greater opportunity for researchers, entrepreneurs and the wider Canadian public to develop new ideas and innovations that benefit Canadians."
Scott French, spokesperson for the Minister of State (Science and Technology)
Participants in the programs:
Shawn Lawrence Otto is a science advocate, science writer, screenwriter, and novelist. He is the cofounder of sciencedebate.org and the producer of the US Presidential Science Debates, for which he received the IEEE-USA's National Distinguished Public Service Award. Based on these experiences, he is author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science, which has been called "One of the most important books of the last decade." His upcoming book, The Anti-Scientific Revolution, revisits and updates the continuing crisis. His article for Scientific American, Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize US Democracy, was rated one of the top articles of 2012. In film, he wrote and co-produced the movie House of Sand and Fog which was nominated for three Oscars. His literary crime novel Sins of Our Fathers was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Laura J. Snyder is a historian, philosopher, and science writer. Oliver Sacks has called her "both a masterly scholar and a powerful storyteller." Snyder is the author of Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek and the Reinvention of Seeing, as well as The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World, which was an official selection of the TED Book Club, a Scientific American Notable Book, and winner of the Royal Institution of Australia's 2011 poll for "Best Science Book." She is also the author of Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Society. She writes for The Wall Street Journal and other publications and is a professor at St. John's University. Snyder's TED Talk on the Philosophical Breakfast Club has been viewed over one million times.
Dr. Bruce Parsons has an undergrad degree in physics and a M.Eng in naval architecture and a Ph. D. in Ocean Engineering. For much of his career at NRC he worked on ice material properties as related to ice-breakers and structures, spending many springs in the Canadian High Arctic doing field work. Ten years ago he was appointed Director of Research at the NRC St. John's lab, which has changed its name four times over that period. Research was done in St John's on all manner of marine technology problems from submarines to ice-breakers. The lab was founded in 1984 and since then has become a world class naval architecture research lab, and was recognized as the best in the world in a number of areas.
As one of New Zealand's best known biomedical scientists, Sir Peter's contributions to developmental, endocrine and evolutionary sciences have won him numerous awards and international recognition including Fellowship of the Commonwealth's most prestigious scientific organisation, the Royal Society (London). Sir Peter is a member of the Order of New Zealand, which is the country's highest civic honour and limited to only 20 living New Zealanders, and is the only New Zealander elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science (USA) and the Academy of Medical Sciences of Great Britain. He is the author of over 650 scientific papers and reviews and author of both technical and popular science books. He holds a University Distinguished Professorship at the Liggins Institute of the University of Auckland.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (2013) The Big Chill: Silencing Public Interest Science, A Survey. June 5 - 19, 2013.
Snyder, Laura J. Eye of the Beholder: Johannes Vermeer, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, and the Reinvention of Seeing. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2015.
Otto, Shawn Lawrence. Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America. Rodale Books, 2011.
C. P. Snow's Seminal 1959 Lecture:The Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution