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March for Science: Keeping political vetting and filtering out of research

University researchers discuss the relationship between science and government

From left: Carley O’Neill, PhD candidate (Applied Bioscience), Faculty of Science; and David Jagroop,  Master of Health Sciences (Kinesiology) candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, at the March for Science in Toronto, Ontario (April 22, 2017).
From left: Carley O’Neill, PhD candidate (Applied Bioscience), Faculty of Science; and David Jagroop, Master of Health Sciences (Kinesiology) candidate, Faculty of Health Sciences, at the March for Science in Toronto, Ontario (April 22, 2017).

As one of the keys to the advancement of human civilization, scientific investigation and discovery is worth defending―especially from political interference, say two University of Ontario Institute of Technology research experts.

On April 22, a group of the university’s researchers and students joined more than 3,000 people in the March for Science Toronto: one of hundreds of demonstrations held across the world that day. Participants marched to celebrate the role science plays in society, and support scientists in the United States who face the prospect of budget cuts to federal science organizations proposed by the recently elected administration of U.S President Donald Trump.

Rupinder Brar, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science served as the Toronto event’s master of ceremonies. He believes politics should not control science.

“Through these marches, scientists and supporters were able to advocate for science, specifically to demand that the process of scientific research be free from politically motivated vetting and filtering,” explains Dr. Brar. “The goal was to promote evidence-based policymaking to our elected officials and decision-making bodies; to encourage a better and more inclusive science, technology, engineering and mathematics education system; and to celebrate Canadian science and scientists.”

March for Science Toronto crowd image

Attendee Shilpa Dogra, PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences believes the event is key to creating a new path for science.

“First, it is important to celebrate the current political and academic environment in Canada,” says Dr. Dogra. “We are fortunate to have a government that is supportive of evidence-based decision making. Second, it is important to send a strong message to governments around the world that science should not be politicized. Governments should be using scientific information for decision-making, but should not be deciding what types of science to fund.”

“I view science as inherently non-political, since science is a method,” adds Dr. Brar. “However, at the same time the results of that science, and scientists themselves, should play an important role in policymaking in all levels of society.”

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