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There is strength in numbers!

The subject of scientists' lobbying efforts has been controversial for some time. I have read various articles which cryptically describe the efforts of the National Consortium of Scientific and Educational Societies (NCSES) as a bi-annual breezing through the offices of ineffective MPs for a whining session, or something equally insulting. In the past, our own efforts have been less than effective. This begs the question -- what should we do differently??

In order to understand the lobbyist culture, we need to analyze the process . . . Someone has a message which they hope to convey to another someone who is in a position to effect change based on that message. Do we have a message?? I think that in a country which can put $5 billion dollars towards a helicopter or two while at the same time cutting funding for universities and research, we definitely have a message to bring. Since those who hold the purse strings on behalf of the public are "the government", we need to identify the channels and individuals within that organization that could effect change.

The more subtle politic is then "How do we get those who can effect change to listen to us?" Since many are elected officials, they are looking for a large number of people who desire the change being discussed. As the CIC, there is some strength in our number of 6,300 or so. However, if, for example, the 1,600 members of the CSChE were to align itself with the Engineering Institute of Canada for the purpose of lobbying collectively, we would have a voice of 20,000 engineers to speak out on issues of importance. And if by some miracle, all engineers across Canada were to become members of a society designed to lobby for their interests, we would have in excess of 150,000 voices (most of them in a high tax bracket).

If we cannot collect ourselves to lobby for the changes needed in Canada, then the other option is to sway public opinion in our direction by having our local sections raise issues with their local media and in local government. The only other way to influence government is bribery or military action (both of which are unethical, and both of which require resources we do not have). Either way, lobbying is a task for scientists which is not going to go away. If we will not lobby for our interests in an effective way, others will get the piece of the pie we believe should go to research, higher education, etc, and others will inflict upon us the restrictions they desire (zero emissions, zero growth, zero income after taxes and zero jobs).
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Title Annotation:Stirring the Pot; lobbying activities of scientists
Author:Gladu, Marilyn
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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