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It's time to take science and technology seriously.

Today the Minister of State for Science, Technology, Paper Clips and Other Small Appliances issued the following communique:

"Canada will become a leader in the research and development of expert systems in oceanographic surveying. A Centre of Excellence will be established in the province of Saskatchewan with initial funding of 2-million. The programme will initially create 5 - 10 new jobs until enough qualified technical staff can be hired. We feel that once fully operational the centre will employ five oceanographers and 20-25 support staff".

Sound incredible - may be...

I had the opportunity to attend my second meeting of the committee of parliamentarians, scientists and engineers (COPSE) in Ottawa on May 8, 1989. Like the previous meeting held in 1987, I was disappointed with the lack of support shown by all three political parties. Sure, there were the token MPs as well as those government ministers who oversee science and technology portfolios, but the main audience was scientists and engineers. It is a sad but true fact that few parliamentarians are interested in science and technology issues. Very few MPs have scientific backgrounds or training, rarely is science and technology discussed at political meetings and I suspect very little effort is made by MPs to get educated on issues that affect Canada's science and technology future. Yet, we, Canada's scientific community leave the future direction of Canada's science programmes to these very same politicians. Most definitely, I do not want to detract from those scientists and engineers who do advise the government on science issues. However, I do believe that they can use some additional help. To be truly effective, we need to grab the attention of all parliamentarians on science and technology issues. Although the Prime Minister now chairs a National Advisory Board on Science and Technology and a new department of Industry, Science and Technology is to be created, we have failed to educate parliamentarians as a whole, on science and technology issues.

Well, it's time you take science and technology seriously.

How many of you have ever talked with your local MP on science and technology issues or better still written a letter outlining your views as one who practises the trade? How many of you have written to the Prime Minister, or Minister of State for Industry, Science and Technology expressing an interest or a concern on science and technology issues in Canada? When was the last time you volunteered to participate in a panel discussion on science and technology issues? I don't mean the distinguished scientists and engineers who regularly consult with the government. I mean YOU, the person reading this article right now ! Your views are important and you must make them known. All parliamentarians have to be educated if science and technology is to gain prominence in the government's priority issues. We must encourage parliamentarians to raise science and technology issues within their party meetings, at caucus meetings and with their constituents. We must strive to get scientists and engineers invited to speak to parliamentarians on a regular basis. I would also encourage you to write to both the Prime Minister and the Minister of State for Industry, Science and Technology.

It's not easy being an educator but that is where we practising scientists and engineers find ourselves. We cannot afford to pass this task on to others. If we do, then some day don't be surprised to hear "Today the Minister of State for Science, Technology, Paper Clips and Other Small Appliances announced
COPYRIGHT 1989 Chemical Institute of Canada
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Wilson, Kirk
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:580
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