Monday

Vigils for Orlando

In light of the tragic deaths in Orlando on Sunday, two vigils are being planning on campus:

U of T Orlando Memorial: An Act of Solidarity
Wednesday June 15, 2016
Wednesday June 15, 12:00-12:30pm
Memorial Benches in front of Hart House

Vigil for Pulse Nightclub Tragedy (organized by LGBTOUT and APUS)
Tuesday June 14 at 9pm
King’s College Circle


Thursday

Science for Peace: Drones and Robots, Canada's Policy. Free, UC, June 15

Drones and Killer Robots: Canada's Policy

Military operations have increasingly included precision guided munitions and unmanned aircraft known as drones. Under development are unmanned fully autonomous armaments, or ”killer robots’’ that destroy or kill without a human in the decision loop. Now is the time to debate what Canada plans to do about this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 7 pm
Room 261, University College, 15 Kings College Circle, University of Toronto.
All are welcome. No charge.

Speakers:

  • Michel Duguay, Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Laval University and chair, Science for Peace Working Group on Drones
  • Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies, Royal Military College and Canadian Forces College
  • Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director, Project Ploughshare

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person | Open Culture

Chomsky, whose thoughts on education we’ve featured before, tells us in the short video interview at the top of the post how hedefines what it means to be truly educated. And to do so, he reaches  back to a philosopher whose views you won’t hear referenced often, Wilhelm von Humboldt, German humanist, friend of Goethe and Schiller, and “founder of the modern higher education system.” 

Humboldt, Chomsky  says, “argued, I think, very plausibly, that the core principle and requirement of a fulfilled human being is the ability to inquire and  create constructively, independently, without external controls.” A true education, Chomsky suggests, opens a door to human intellectual freedom and creative autonomy.

To clarify, Chomsky paraphrases a “leading physicist” and former MIT colleague, who would tell his students, “it’s not important what we cover in the class; it’s important what you discover.” On this point of view, to be truly educated means to be resourceful, to be able to “formulate serious questions” and “question standard doctrine, if that’s appropriate”…. It means to “find your own way.” This definition sounds similar to Nietzsche’s views on the subject, though Nietzsche had little hope in very many people attaining a true education. Chomsky, as you might expect, proceeds in a much more democratic spirit.

Friday

Paid Internships at the MFC centre for 2016/7. Deadline April 27.

Paid Internships: Sept 1, 2016 to March 15, 2017
Multi-Faith Centre
Application Deadline: 11:59 pm, Wednesday, April 27, 2016.

Application requirements:
The application is comprised of two parts: (1) cover letter and (2) resume.

Your cover letter should outline the following:
• Your interest in working at the Centre, and how your academic background, experience and skills would allow you to make a unique contribution to the work of the Centre and through the particular internship you are applying for
• Confirmation that you will be a full-time student in 2016 – 2017. The internships are only open to full-time students.

Your resume should outline experience that is current and related to the position description.

Submit your complete application by email to Richard Chambers at richard.chambers@utoronto.ca. In the subject field, enter whether you are applying for a:

General Internships (6 positions)
Environmental Internship (1 position)
Queering Religion Internship (1 position)
Communications Internship (1 position)

Applicants will be contacted regarding an interview the 1st week of May. All applicants will be contacted regarding the status of their application as soon as possible.

About the Multi-Faith Centre
The Multi-Faith Centre offers educational opportunities for students, staff and faculty to engage in personal and collective processes of discerning life purpose and meaning, as well as opportunities to engage in inter-faith cooperation for social justice. The Multi-Faith Centre serves all students, staff and faculty, including those who identify as “agnostic,” “atheist” or “secularist.” In addition the Centre offers guidance on religious accommodation, religious pluralism and spiritual life on campus as well as a physical space where students, staff and faculty can gather for worship, meditation, yoga and other spiritual practices.

About the Multi-Faith Centre Internship Program
The Multi-Faith Centre Internship Program provides undergraduate and graduate students structured learning opportunities to examine the role of religion and religious actors in society; explore questions of identity, culture and community; and engage in personal and collective processes of discerning life purpose and meaning through sustained study of the interconnections between spirituality and social justice. Interns will have an opportunity to develop a related project under the guidance of Multi-Faith Centre staff.

The Multi-Faith Centre for Spiritual Study and Practice is offering 6 general programming internships, 1 environmental internship, 1 internship exploring sexual orientation, identity and faith, and 1 communications internship consisting of 10 hours a week at $12.73 an hour from Sept 1, 2016 to Mar 15, 2017 to full-time students (during that academic year) on the St George campus.

Responsibilities

Multi-Faith Centre interns are responsible for the following:

• Supporting Multi-Faith Centre staff- and intern-led programming
• Planning, developing, promoting, implementing and leading a minimum of 3 projects
• Supporting student clubs with joint programming engaged in questions of religion, faith, spirituality and social justice
• Attending weekly meetings with Multi-Faith Centre staff and interns
• Holding weekly office hours at the Multi-Faith Centre

Qualifications
• Currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program in any discipline at St. George Campus
• Excellent organizational and time management skills
• Excellent project development skills
• Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including public speaking skills
• Excellent interpersonal skills
• Ability to work independently and collaboratively
• Understanding of equity and social justice theory and practice

Additional requirements for Eco-Spirituality Internship applicants
• Knowledge of ecological justice theory and practice. Knowledge of Indigenous land-based pedagogy is an asset.
• Demonstrated experience planning and implementing ecology-focused events and projects
• Experience with participating in environment and sustainability-focused clubs on campus, and environment focused organizations and movements

Additional requirements for Queering Religion Internship
• Understanding of LGBTTQQ2SIAA issues
• Understanding of issues of sexism, racism, homophobia, bi-phobia transphobia and other forms of oppressions
• Experience with participating in and/or creating supportive spaces for LGBTTQQ2SIAA identified peoples
• Interest in examining intersections of gender, sexuality, race, faiths, religions, theologies and spiritual practices

Additional requirements for Communication Internship applicants
• Demonstrated experience with HTML, CMS, MS Office
• Demonstrated experience with social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
• Courses taken or skills acquired in graphic design, web 2.0 and social media are an asset
• Short-listed candidates will be required to provide work samples

April 6, UC: Science for Peace: Windows of Opportunity: How Women Seize Peace Negotiations for Political Change

Science for Peace: Windows of Opportunity: How Women Seize Peace Negotiations for Political Change
Please join us for a free public lecture on Wednesday April 6th from 7-9pm in Room UC 144 of University College ( 15 King’s College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H7 ) at the University of Toronto’s St George campus:
Dr. Miriam Anderson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration and a member of the Yeates School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson University. She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge (2010) in Politics and International Studies, an MA in Political Science (2004) from the University of British Columbia, and a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Anderson researches peace processes, post-conflict reconstruction, and transnationalism in war and peace. She currently holds (as the principal investigator) a SSHRC Insight Development Grant entitled “Sustaining Women’s Gains Made During Peace Negotiations” (2014-2016) and a SSHRC Connection Grant (2014-2015), “Transnational Actors in War and Peace.
Miriam Anderson teaches courses on women, war and peace; global governance; and women and politics.

From 1999-2002, Anderson served as a human rights monitor for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Croatia. During this period she also monitored elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Croatia for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Anderson has also volunteered with grassroots organizations in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
This event is part of a weekly series of talks entitled: “Vital Discussions of Human Security”. Please see www.scienceforpeace.ca/events for details on all of our upcoming events. Please see our YouTube channel for videos from past events.

Thursday

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation

URGENT: Email Minister of Immigration McCallum to stop next week's litigation 

Despite our best efforts, the Canadian government is going ahead with  litigation that was initiated by the Harper government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. The Federal Court hearings are scheduled for April 5 and 6.
  • We are asking every supporter to immediately email Minister of Immigration John McCallum,  at minister@cic.gc.ca and john.mccallum@parl.gc.ca (model message below)
  • Under your name, please include city and province
  • Please cc Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca
  • Please also bcc the War Resisters Support Campaign at wrsctoronto@gmail.com
Here is a model email message you can copy and paste into your message (or feel free to personalize it)

SUBJECT: U.S. Iraq War resisters – Stop litigation initiated by Harper government
Honourable John McCallum
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Dear Minister McCallum,
I am writing to ask that you immediately cease the litigation initiated  by the former Conservative government against U.S. Iraq War resisters. Our new government should not defend decisions made under the previous  government and re-litigate matters the Court has already found on in  favour of these conscientious objectors. As you know, Canadians  overwhelmingly opposed the Iraq War and the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien made a decision not to participate in it.

The cases to be heard by the Federal Court on April 5 and 6 should be settled, and the matters sent back to be re-determined by new  immigration officers.

I thank you for your consideration and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
cc: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Sunday

The Human Library Project | Hart House Thurs April 7, 11-3

The Human Library Project | Hart House

Details: Have you ever lost yourself in a good book? Explored new ideas or experienced far-off places through the written word?  Now is your opportunity to come face to face with a human book and hear, first-hand, from people who have lived to tell unforgettable stories.

Despite living in one of the most diverse cities in the world, we continue to face challenges to social cohesion such as discrimination, intolerance and prejudice. With the recent release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, growing momentum with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as well as increasing occurrences of anti-Islamic rhetoric and actions, the 2016 Human Library is more timely than ever, primarily focusing on Indigenous, Black and Muslim perspectives.

Engage and ask questions about being First Nations in the city of Toronto, a Black Muslim in the post-9/11 world, or a woman of colour running for Federal Office. Each participant in our human library can be checked out, like a book, for 25 minutes of one-on-one time. You will get a chance to hear a story, share an insight and gain perspective.

Successfully staged in over 27 countries, this is the fourth time Hart House will be running this popular program, and students, staff and community members are welcome to attend.

Drop in or register on-line. Books are checked out on a first come, first serve basis.

Saturday

Science for Peace Campus Group open screening of Dr Strangelove, Monday Marh 15, 6pm UC

You are invited to an open meeting of the Science for Peace Campus Group
to be followed by a screening of’
Stanley Kubrick’s 1965 dark comedy
Dr. Strangelove
on Monday, March 14 in the Croft Chapter House,
the SW corner of University College
15 Kings College Circle
University of Toronto
6:00 Campus group meeting and social hour
7:00 We’ll watch the film together. 
Everyone is welcome.  No charge.  Bring a friend. 
Students, alumni, and employees and faculty (both current and previous) of University of Toronto are eligible to belong to U of T campus groups.

Tuesday

International Women's Day - Canadian Nurses, MSF, and Gender Violence

Today is International Women's Day, and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is using this opportunity to highlight sexual violence as an urgent health and medical issue. Here, two Canadian MSF nurses discuss how we can make a difference in the lives of women affected by sexual and gender-based violence. Learn more about their work, and how MSF helps the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in more than 90 projects in nearly 30 countries around the world.
International Women's Day

Monday

A conversation about assisted death UC, Feb 4, 2016 4:30-6pm

A Conversation About Assisted Death


Event Date: 
Thursday, February 4, 2016 - 16:30 to 18:00

"It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other" - All My Puny Sorrows
Miriam Toews
Barker Fairley Distinguished Visitor in Canadian Studies, University College
Author, All My Puny Sorrows, A Complicated Kindness
Winner, Governor General's Award for Fiction, Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award
Dr. James Downar
Critical Care and Palliative Care Physician
University Health Network
Dr. Rose Geist
Director of Collaborative Care, Medical Psychiatry Alliance
Medical Psychiatrist, Hospital for Sick Children,
University of Toronto
Trudo Lemmens
Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law Policy
Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Thursday February 4, 2016
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
University College, 15 King's College Circle, Room 140
Reception to follow

Tuesday

UTSA PANEL Jan 26: A Clash of Medical Systems? A Critical Discussion on the Art of Healing

UTSSA presents:
A Clash of Medical Systems? A Critical Discussion on the Art of Healing

Tuesday, January 26th, 6-8pm
East Common Room, Hart House, University of Toronto
7 Hart House Circle, Toronto
Tickets at www.medicalclash.eventbrite.ca
($4 student, $12 non-student)
Dr. Timothy Cook M.D., Dr. Alistar Dias Ph.D., and Dr. Michael Richards, M.D.

Health is one of the key attributes of a good life. Core to any healing art is a strong ethical system, but agreeing to a standard of practice leaves considerable room for disagreement. The best care requires and open mind and unbiased consideration of all treatments, yet ethics of do no harm restricts practices to those of proven efficacy. What does this evidence look like? What modalities do we embrace? What is the role of tradition? Are complementary and alternative medicine what they claim to be? Has science become restrictive, focusing on the wrong stuff and becoming a roadblock to a healthy lifestyle?

Meet our expert panel of medical professionals from across the spectrum of medical approaches.
Q&A to follow.

Dr. Michael Richards, MD, is an eye physician and surgeon at Sick Kids Hospital, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada, and a PhD student at the University of Toronto in the department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences
Dr. Alistar Dias, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Biology at the University of Toronto, and teaches an upper year course whose overall goal is to give students a better understanding of complementary and integrative medicine from a scientific perspective.
Dr. Timothy Cook, MD, is the Medical Director & Specialist of Internal Medicine & Integrative health at P3 Integrative Health Services, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada. He holds a Masters in public health, as well as a University of Toronto teaching appointment. He is a retired Lieutenant-colonel of the Canadian Forces Medical Services and has served as the personal physician to two Governor Generals of Canada.

Monday

Humanist Refugee Resettlement Project

Letter from Moses Klein, Humanist Association of Toronto

Dear HAT members and supporters,
I am writing this as we are all coming to grips with the horror, the tragedy and the senselessness of the Paris attacks. Beyond the shock of November 13th, I have been struck with the vast range of responses, from the inspiring example of the Parisians who opened their doors to strangers, to the disturbing hate crimes committed in many countries around the world, including at least one instance in Toronto.  Many of the victims of these hate crimes are themselves refugees fleeing ISIS. As humanists, I hope you agree it is the hospitable Parisians who ought to be emulated.
With that in mind, I am inviting you to support the Humanist Association of Toronto in its latest project. We are working in partnership with Oraynu (the Jewish secular humanist organization) and possibly other allied organizations seeking to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada. This was a plan we were already discussing before this month’s attacks, but it seems ever more important now to demonstrate that our society is a generous and welcoming one. The success of this project depends on your help, in two important ways.
Financial assistance: Sponsoring organizations need to raise the equivalent of one year of welfare before the sponsorship can proceed. At our October 2015 steering committee meeting, HAT committed to raise $9000, which would be 1/3 of the required amount for a family of four.
Settlement assistance: After our refugee family has arrived, they may still need assistance in other forms. Can you volunteer to help find an apartment, take them on errands, translate for them (if their English is inadequate), etc.? Would you have old clothes or furniture to donate? This is in the future, but we would like to compile a list of people to call on.
If you would like to help this effort in any way, please fill out the form on the next page and mail it to
Humanist Association of Toronto
PO Box 68559
360A Bloor St. W.
Toronto, ON   M5S 1X1
You can also reply through email.
Thanks for your support,
Moses Klein (for the HAT steering committee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I want to help HAT settle a refugee family in Toronto
[  ]          I am helping out financially. Here is my tax-deductible cheque for ____________ payable to Humanist Association of Toronto. (Please write “refugee” on the memo line.) You can also send an Interac transfer to HATTreasurer@gmail.com, or by Paypal at  http://tinyurl.com/oys5vgg .
[  ]          I can help with settlement by ______________________________________________________.
(Please describe what you can offer.) You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
[  ]          I would like to help with the committee coordinating the refugee project. You can also reply by email to mosesklein@gmail.com
Name: ________________________________
Address: ___________________________________________
               ____________________________________________
Phone: _____________________
Email: ______________________

Friday

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: Turkey Detains Academics as Chomsky Takes Aim at Erdoğan's Brutality

Humanists for Social and Environmental Action: Turkey Detains Academics as Chomsky Takes Aim at Erdoğan's Brutality

Global outcry over academic freedom and human rights has erupted following news on Friday that the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has arrested at least 18 academics and scholars for signing an open letter last week calling for the end of Turkey's brutal treatment of the country's Kurdish people.

The controversy has been elevated internationally by the involvement of Noam Chomsky and other
high-profile academics who have also expressed public contempt for Turkey's policies towards the Kurds as well as Erdoğan's double-standards on fighting "terrorism" both inside his own country and
in neighboring Syria.

(see full article in the Guardian. Links above)

Canada's high court gives green light to assisted suicide | Reuters

Canada's high court gives green light to assisted suicide | Canada | Reuters
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Supreme Court of Canada decided on Friday to allow doctor-assisted suicide across the country under certain circumstances, while giving the government more time to pass a law governing the practice.
The decision came as officials confirmed that a patient had already been helped to die in the French-speaking province of Quebec. The court had overturned a ban on physician-assisted suicide  last February, putting Canada in the company of a handful of Western  countries to make it legal.
But it had said the decision would not take effect for a year, giving the government time to produce legislation.

Monday

Freedom of Research, Science for Peace meeting Jan 14, open to public

January 14th: Combating Distortions of Scientific Research
S4P has Several ongoing projects concern combating distortions of scientific research.  This is an attempt to get those active in these efforts tog ather to discuss future plans. It is formally a meeting of the Working Group on Freedom of Research of Science for Peace, but it is open to the public.

Time: 4:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon 14 January.
Place: WI2007D, University of Toronto.   go in the 40 Willcocks Street entrance of New College and go up to the second floor.)

Some of us have been working against restrictions on federally funded research, for example, on the
environment.
Some have been working on defence of research in the health sciences against distortion by pharmaceutical industry funders.
Some have acted to expose unsupported claims of harmlessness of genetically modified organisms and products derived from them.
The need for watchdogs on government and industry in such matters is as great as ever.  Let us try to contribute.

Chandler Davis

davis@math.toronto.edu

Friday

National Day of Remembrance, Action on Violence Against Women, Dec 3, Hart House

National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
12 noon Lawn in Front of Hart House Commemorative Ceremony
1 pm Action for Change Table Group Discussions & Lunch to follow in Hart House
Thurs Dec 3, 2015

We remember all women who are victims of Violence, especially the 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique

https://www.facebook.com/events/843734829086287/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_Polytechnique_massacre 

Wednesday

UTSA annual symposium: What ever happened to critical thinking? Thu Sept 24, Hart House

UTSA Annual Symposium- What Happened to Critical Thinking? 7 pm Thurs Sept 24th Hart House, Music Room( 2nd Fl) Casual but structured conversations Pizza and Coffee to be provided. There’s an endless sea of headlines circling around, making bandwagon causes the new norm. What happened to critical thinking? Questioning received wisdom is a timeless philosophical tradition. Suddenly social media makes polarized conformity the new normal. The world is much more complex than black and white. This Thursday the 24th help us bring some colour and life to these issues: the new sex-ed curriculum, the border between free speech and hate speech, and the intimate links between medical research and the pharmaceutical industry.

Ontario Sex-ed curriculum- http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/sex-education-ontario-curriculum-1.3220454

Free Speech and Hate Speech- http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/09/14/charlie-hebdo-reopens-freedom-speech-debate-cartoons-depicting-death-aylan-kurdi-_n_8133118.html

Medical research and the pharmaceutical industry- http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/spiegel-interview-with-whistleblower-doctor-peter-wilmshurst-a-1052159.html#ref=nl-international

Join the discussion,
-Gianni, UTSA President

Monday

Facing the Challenge of Peace: A shared statement by peacebuilding organizations

Joint statement on World Peace Day - CFSC

Facing the Challenge of Peace: A shared statement by peacebuilding organizations

On this day, the International Day of Peace, we, a group of peacebuilding organizations from around the world, bring you this message.

The 70th anniversary of the United Nations brings an unprecedented number of major negotiations, reviews and processes that together will frame the work of multilateralism for the next decade and beyond. Next week, the world’s leaders will sign on to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has identified peaceful, just and inclusive societies as one of five cross-cutting priorities for the international community, and there will be high-level discussions on terrorism, UN peace operations and peacebuilding.

Violence is a fundamental dimension of human suffering, just as are poverty and oppression. Violence darkens lives and destroys hope across the world, from remote villages to famous cities, from the poorest countries to the richest. We cannot hope to eliminate extreme poverty, the central aim of the 2030 Agenda, without addressing violence.

Furthermore, we cannot expect to unravel the challenges of today’s world, from terrorism and displacement, transnational crime and repeated cycles of civil war, oppression and state violence without digging deeper. We must address the roots of violent conflict and instability in economic and political exclusion; injustice, gender and other forms of inequality; insecurity and institutional weakness; and consider changing an international system that does too little to raise up the voices, needs and aspirations of the many, rather than the interests of the few. That many of these issues are upheld in the 2030 Agenda is a heartening development but more needs to be done.

Peace means healthy, more stable lives for our children.
If we accept the premise that the keystone of the UN’s work, across development, humanitarian action and peace and security, needs to be to foster the growth of peaceful, just and inclusive societies, then what changes need to take place – what do we need to do differently?

An initial step would be to use a preventive lens for all development, humanitarian, security and indeed business initiatives, both at the UN and beyond. Leveraged effectively, the 2030 Agenda could help outline a shared approach to addressing and preventing violence at root. The following principles will be vital for the international community to adopt:
  • Embrace the universality of the 2030 Agenda: all societies must work towards becoming more peaceful, just and inclusive. Our task is not complete until all human beings, wherever they may live, can fulfil their potential in peace
  • Always seek to understand the context: an effective and inclusive analysis, involving a variety of local perspectives, including youth and women, should be a prerequisite for any external engagement.
  • In the planning and implementation of development, humanitarian, economic or security engagement, always seek to do no harm, to ensure that unintentionally or otherwise, the consequences of that engagement do not themselves make things worse, for example by affirming existing or new patterns of political or economic exclusion.
  • Focus on increasing resilience, particularly emphasizing the relationship between individuals, their communities and their government. This requires attention to reconciliation and to societies’ capacity to build dialogue, make inclusive and collaborative decisions, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
  • Prioritize local needs, the longer term support for peaceful, just and inclusive communities, over external self-interested agendas, particularly short-term security or stabilization objectives.
- See more at:
http://quakerservice.ca/uncategorized/joint-statement-on-world-peace-day/#sthash.KiGDX450.bEeV8fE3.dpuf

Saturday

Why Canada needs a science watchdog

Why Canada needs a science watchdog

The recent series of pieces at iPolitics on Canadian science and science policy bears witness to a growing concern about the health of public interest science.

One such source of concern is the increasing imposition of constraints on the ability of government scientists to communicate their science to the public. Concerns about muzzling have been voiced by academic institutions like the Canadian Association of University Teachers, media associations like the Canadian Science Writers Association, professional organizations like the Royal Society of Canada and even the prestigious international science journal Nature.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada recently released the first results of a survey of over 4,000 government scientists, 90 per cent of whom reported that they were prevented from speaking publicly about their scientific work. The evidence of muzzling is sufficiently persuasive to have prompted an investigation by the federal Information Commissioner into the legality of government communication policies, following a petition by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Clinic.

A second source of concern is Canada’s reduced capacity for science in the public interest. Recent data from Statistics Canada indicate that in 2012-2013, for the fourth year in a row, federal science and technology funding has declined, with most science-based departments and agencies experiencing cuts. One might argue that in these trying times of fiscal restraint, even science must do its bit. But despite a more difficult economic situation south of the border, President Obama’s 2014 budget plan still included a 9.2 per cent increase ($143 billion) in federal non-defense R&D spending.

Reduced capacity for science in the public interest reflects both ashrinking budget and a shift in priorities away from basic scientific research. The 2013 budget provided $37 million to the three research councils for industry-dedicated programs, effectively replacing funds lost to deficit reduction measures. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Council’s (NSERC) Major Resources Support Program, which traditionally provided much of the infrastructure and equipment for basic research, has been suspended. And earlier this year, the National Research Council (NRC) was restructured to serve as a “concierge” facility for industry.

A third concern is what appears to be the selective elimination or reduction of institutions and programs engaged in the collection of scientific information on the environmental and health impacts of economic development. Shuttered or defunded programs and institutions include the Experimental Lakes Area, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy, among dozens of others.

A fourth concern is the apparent indifference to evidence-based decision making. In August 2012, responding to questions about the Northern Gateway pipeline, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asserted that “the only way that governments can handle controversial projects of this manner is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.” In March 2013, Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver advanced the view that President Obama was — on the Keystone XL issue, at least — “driven by facts“, adding “that’s what drives us as well.”

The evidence suggests otherwise. The mandatory long-form census that provided critical information to governments and businesses alike was replaced with the voluntary National Household Survey (NHS), which, it was argued, would deliver similar quality data — even though all the experts said otherwise. Recently, Statistics Canada slapped a disclaimer on the first results of the survey and data from many municipalities across Canada were withheld due to concerns about data quality.

Friday

UK scientists apply for licence to edit genes in human embryos : Nature News & Comment

UK scientists apply for licence to edit genes in human embryos : Nature News & Comment

Scientists in London have asked for permission to edit the genomes of human embryos — a request that could lead to the world’s first approval of such research by a national regulatory body.

Kathy Niakan, a researcher affiliated with the Francis Crick Institute, London’s new £700-million (US$1.1-billion) biomedical-research centre, said on 18 September that she is proposing to use gene editing to provide “fundamental insights into early human development”. In a statement released through the Crick, Niakan said that her team wanted to use technology based on the CRISPR/Cas9 system — a recently developed technique for precisely editing genomes that has become hugely popular in the biology community. Her application was first reported by The Guardian newspaper.