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How political should scientists be?

Ed. note: In this issue, we introduce Stirring the Pot, a column proposed by the CSChE. The purpose of the column is to speak up and tackle the controversial issues that CIC and Constituent Society members face every day in their working lives. Although Marilyn Gladu, Science Policy Director, CSChE, has kindly consented to take responsibility for the first few columns, this space is open to all who wish to express an opinion or propose action. As always, we invite and are grateful for your input.

What should the role of scientists be in the political realm? It seems that half the membership strongly advocates that we, the experts, speak out on issues that affect us.

Scientists should provide an informed opinion and be forceful in publicizing it so that well-thought-out decisions can be made by government, thus avoiding ill-advised, potentially harmful and poor legislation.

With this in mind, the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE) drafted several policy statements which captured the views of the membership (or at least were not strenuously objected to when printed in ACCN for review and comments). Topics such as Science Education, R&D Policy in Canada, Women in Science, Energy and the Environment were covered.

Now, armed with a viewpoint, we are attempting to influence change in these areas. This is where the other half of the membership steps in with great fear and trepidation and insists that we have no business participating in government policy and decision-making processes. Well, what should we do? Should we sit idly by and philosophize about the way we wish scientists were respected and that people understood how stupid some of the actions taken to "protect the environment" are, and how pitiful that science education in Canada generally is, and how we'd like to see more women in the field, but ...

Or should we try to use the strength of our numbers and knowledge to provide data, ideas and well-informed suggestions about how we'd like to see science policy and education in this country evolve.

I'd like to hear your comments. As the Science Policy Director for the CSChE, I think the time has come for us to be participants in the decision-making process of government bodies, and not just the victims of their decisions. Let's stir or get off the pot!

Marilyn Gladu, MCIC, Science Policy Director, CSChE, may be reached care of: Dow Chemical Canada Inc., P.O. Box 1012 Modeland Road, Sarnia, ON, N7T 7K7.
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Title Annotation:Stirring the Pot; need for scientists to express their opinions on issues that affect society
Author:Gladu, Marilyn
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:411
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