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Making the case for evidence-based science in the political arena

Dr. Katie Gibbs
Image Credit: Contributed

VERNON - A new era of optimism for science in Canada is emerging. Within days of coming into power, the federal Liberal government lifted a veil of secrecy by giving government scientists a green light to speak directly to the media and the public.

This change invites the question: will we see science play an increasing role in government decision-making in the near future?

Dr. Katie Gibbs, co-founder and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, will address this notion in a public talk titled “Evidence for Democracy: is science on the rise?” on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre.

Canadian government scientists play a key role in safeguarding the country’s environment, air, water, and food. They are also extensively involved in the review and regulation of industrial and consumer products such as pesticides and medicine. Scientists’ ability to communicate freely about their work and concerns to both the media and public is paramount to ensure transparency in government decision-making that is supported by evidence-based science.

Gibbs argues that government actions in recent years have weakened the country’s foundation for informed decision-making. These changes have happened in three distinct ways: a reduction in the ability of government scientists to communicate their research to the public, the erosion of fundamental research and environmental monitoring among other science initiatives, and a reduction in the role scientific evidence plays in policy decisions.

“The impacts of these changes go far beyond science,” asserts Gibbs. “Science and evidence are essential elements of a functioning democracy, which requires informed citizens and transparent decision-making.”

She adds that the recent changes invoked by the Liberals are promising but there is still much work to be done. This includes the need to enshrine the right of scientists to open communication in formal policies and the rebuilding of Canada’s research capacity through publicly funded science.

Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottawa, she was a lead organizer of the “Death of Evidence” rally, one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. An avid spokesperson on science policy issues, organizations and national media outlets alike frequently seek her expertise commentary.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at 250-545-3644.

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