In “Scientists march on Canadian parliament” (Nature, 10 Jul 2012) Ivan Semeniuk/Jennifer Carpenter report,
To the mournful tune of a lone saxophone scientists marched through the streets of Ottawa and onto Canada’s Parliament Hill to protest a glut of cuts to government research labs and — they say — a lack of evidence-based decision making in the Canadian government.
The 10 July rally drew an estimated 2000 scientists, graduate students and their supporters to the sunny capital, many of them dressed in white lab coats; smaller protests took place in other cities across the country including in Regina, Guelph and Calgary.
They are protesting cutting funding to some programs. What you don’t hear in this report is that many of the main Ottawa contingent may have been drawn from an evolutionary biology conference meeting there. (See University of Toronto evolutionary biologist Larry Moran’s blog, for details re their complaints.)
Two things most readers won’t necessarily know: Darwin’s boys have been after science minister Gary Goodyear for years, believing him to be a “creationist.” He says he does believe in evolution, but what they really want , of course, is tax dollars to study whatever they feel like studying. In these times, that is a lot to ask for, and he demurs. So from their perspective, he doesn’t believe in it nearly enough.
Second, smaller tax base countries like Canada must make narrower decisions about what to fund than large tax base ones. We made the Canadarm work, but we didn’t try to fund a whole national space program. Any time we must make those decisions, some people will be screaming. And marching. And carrying a coffin through the streets. (NatureNews did not mention that stunt.)
We simply can’t afford to fund all available good ideas. At the end of the day, we must be judged on the achievements we have chosen to focus on, not those we left to others. Some decisions will be right, others wrong. That’s life. That other stuff is just street theatre.
See also: “Canadian science minister vs. the puff dino suits: A story with, um, legs?”