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Science and Democracy: the E4D Experiment

The fourth L-SETAC Ottawa Pub Night of the 2014-2015 season was held on Wednesday, March 25th at the Clocktower Brew Pub. Dr. Katie Gibbs, cofounder and executive director of the non-partisan, not for profit organization Evidence for Democracy (E4D), gave an engaging talk on the work being undertaken by E4D to promote scientific integrity and the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making. The pub night was well attended, and included an especially high proportion of federal government scientists. Katie started by describing how recent government policies have led to the erosion of science and democracy through 1) a decrease in science communication, 2) the erosion of science and evidence gathering abilities, and 3) a diminished role of evidence in policy decision. Several high-profile examples were discussed, including the silencing of Fisheries and Oceans researcher, Kristi Miller, the foiled plan to shut down the Experimental Lakes Area, and replacement of the long-form census with the voluntary national household survey. The results of a recent report authored by Dr. Gibbs and Karen Magnuson-Ford (Simon Fraser University) evaluating the communications policies of federal government departments were also highlighted. The authors found that the communication policies did not support open communication between scientists and journalists, protect scientists’ rights to free speech, or protect against political interference. Katie wrapped up her presentation by describing E4D’s objectives of promoting the use of best available science and evidence in public policies and increasing public demand for evidence-based decision making. E4D aims to accomplish these goals through research measuring appropriate use of evidence in government policies, education of Canadians on the importance of evidence in government decision making, and issue campaigns advocating for the use of evidence in specific areas. Several campaigns are also being organized by E4D in preparation for the upcoming federal election. These include offering a science pledge that politicians can take to support evidence-based decision making, and launching the “True North Smart and Free” website that will provide voters with the information required to support the most science-friendly government. Stay tuned! -Submitted by Gillian Manning

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