On Monday, scientists across Canada demonstrated against the Conservative government's war on science. The Stephen Harper government has imposed political minders on scientists, requiring routine press queries to be vetted by unqualified political operatives, many of them 20-something Conservative party fundraisers without any background in science. The Harper government has taken many other unprecedented, anti-science measures, from demanding NDAs from foreign scientists working on projects in Canada to shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area, the Canadian equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider, a massive lake-system used for crucial large-scale climate research.
The Tories raised their election war-chests from tar-sands oil companies and other dirty industries, and have spent their time in government trying to abolish facts from political discourse. Canada's world-class research community had been crying foul all along, but this appears to be the breaking point.
Hundreds of participants gathered in 17 cities for rallies on Monday. In Toronto some donned lab coats while in Vancouver protesters were seen wearing gags adorned with the Conservative Party logo – a reference to the alleged muzzling of federal scientists by political overseers.
"We're really pleased with the turnout," said Katie Gibbs, a biologist and executive director of Evidence for Democracy, the Ottawa-based science advocacy group that co-ordinated the effort.
Dr. Gibbs and colleagues said they hoped the rallies would alert the public to scientists' concerns that the federal government has shifted funding markedly toward commercially driven research at the expense of public-interest science.
Scientists push campaign for evidence-based decision making from government [Ivan Semeniuk/Globe and Mail]