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Manning as champion of science

May 17, 2010

A couple of articles this weekend highlighted former Reform Party leader Preston Manning’s emergence as a voice of support for better science policy in this country. Having seen him speak on  the subject at the fall’s Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC), I can confirm that he is an eloquent and ardent supporter of science and scientists in Canada. His appearance at last weekend’s Science Policy Symposium in Gatineau, QC provided another opportunity to profile Mr. Manning’s thoughts on how science can better influence policy in Canada, and why it should.

Mr. Manning shared the stage at the conference with David Suzuki, two public personas assumed to be as far apart as possible on the ideological divide. My experience with Manning, however, demonstrated that when he speaks about science and environmental policy, he’s far from the cartoonish right-wing idealogue his opponents imagine. He’s thoughtful and passionate about why Canada needs to be doing a better job environmentally and scientifically. As such, he and Dr. Suzuki aren’t that far apart.

Léo Charbonneau, at the University Affairs blog Margin Notes, provides a nice summary of the presentation by the two men. Manning reiterated the main points he presented at the CSPC – scientists need to get involved in politics, scientists need to do a better job of communicating effectively, etc. Léo’s piece provides a good outline of his points, as well as Dr. Suzuki’s response. As Léo points out, there remains an unanswered question about what to do if elected officials choose not to listen to scientists, despite the best efforts of scientists to engage and communicate effectively.

The Globe and Mail’s Elizabeth Church presented a profile of Manning’s work as a spokesman for science policy in the weekend edition. It’s a nice summary of the work Manning is doing, and also addresses the pairing of Manning with Suzuki at the conference. Despite the lack of fireworks onstage, she manages to get one inflammatory quote from Suzuki: “Our big disagreement is he thinks the free market is going to solve everything, which is total bullshit.” Nice, Dr. Suzuki. That’s some effective scientist communication.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    May 17, 2010 14:12

    Preston Manning does have good things to say but he appears to be hiding behind the canard of poor communication with actually communicating what should change. For example, with his intimate experience of working inside politics does he think scientists need to improve their communication skills or give politicians what they want to hear? For researchers, there is an implicit worry that this government does not wish for advice, rather it rewards those who issue plaudits (or votes) and penalizes those speaking outside of the approved script.

    Is our approach wrong or is it the message?

  2. May 26, 2010 11:17

    For the record, it is possible to view online the May 12 Suzuki Manning Dialogue, thanks to CPAC ‘s Video-On-Demand service. Look for “On Public Record” serie – Manning and Suzuki: Speaking Science to Power, available at http://www.cpac.ca/forms/index.asp?dsp=template&act=view3&pagetype=vod〈=e&clipID=4022.
    I also strongly recommend to your readers to take a look at another key moment at the 2nd Science Policy Symposium, the Opening Keynote delivered on May 13 by world renowned Stephen Lewis:

    * On Podium – Opening Keynote by Stephen Lewis: “Reflections on Science, Sustainable Development and Social Justice”.

    On-line viewing: http://www.cpac.ca/forms/index.asp?dsp=template&act=view3&pagetype=vod〈=e&clipID=4029.
    Cheers
    Johanne

  3. S Chakrabarti permalink
    September 24, 2010 14:54

    Mr Manning is a non-scientist who has learnt about science and scientists and emerged as a champion of Canadian Science. Dr Suzuki, on the other hand, is believer/promoter of the barely scientific AGW creed and done a great disservice to science and Canada. After all, having a PhD in genetics does not qualify one as an expert in immunology, much less on oceans and sun spots.

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