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article imageThe impacts of slashing science funding can be far-reaching

By Karen Graham     Jul 23, 2017 in Politics
There has never been an American president as hostile toward federal support of the sciences than Donald Trump. In the six months since he took office, he has drastically undercut science and research efforts by the federal government.
If we want to know what really happens when a federal government systematically withdraws its support of funding in the field of science and scientific research, we might want to remember that our neighbor to the North went through the same thing about 10 years ago.
As Bloomberg notes, what happened in Canada when Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper took office was actually eerily similar to what is happening under Trump's term as president.
Under Trump's direction, scientists have been fired, scientific data and any mention of climate change have been removed from federal websites. Known climate science haters have been appointed to head up the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy and the president's proposed 2018 budget calls for deep cuts to scientific research.
President Donald Trump has said Washington will not be bound by the targets on reducing emissions of...
President Donald Trump has said Washington will not be bound by the targets on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases set down in Paris, and will cut funding for developing countries affected by climate change
Stephen Harper did basically the very same thing that Trump is doing now. Harper waged a steady war on science and data that he considered unnecessary and not in keeping with his agenda. This battle included the cancellation of the long-form census, a very important data-gathering tool, as well as shutting down vital environmental research labs.
But Harper didn't stop there — He rewrote environmental protection legislation in the fine print of budget bills so that it favored his views. Scientists were not allowed to talk to the media, and all science data was removed from federal websites. One of the biggest cuts in funding went to the Canadian Department of Fisheries. Most of the department's libraries were closed and irreplaceable research would up in the dumpsters.
And Harper also pulled Canada out of the Kyoto treaty. Does all this sound familiar? It should because this egregious atrocity is happening again in the United States. But we here in America can also look to Canada for advice on how to overcome this damnable situation.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs-up while speaking to supporters after conced...
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs-up while speaking to supporters after conceding defeat to the Liberals on election night in Calgary, October 19, 2015
David Buston, AFP
The impacts of Harper's anti-science campaign on Canada
If people thought the sky would fall because of Harper's war on science - No, the world didn't come to an end and life did go on. However, Canada's standing in the rankings of global scientific publications did slip, and the number of patents attributed to Canadian scientists fell, as well.
According to Vox, Canada may have gotten off fairly easily as far as the long-term impacts of the Harper anti-science war, and some say it was mild compared to the American war on science, which is a much meaner and more reckless battle.
Chris Turner, writing for Vox, says that in battling the anti-science climate in the U.S., "the Canadian war holds some useful lessons as America’s defenders of science transition from their first fledgling protest to the longer fight." And marching was the right way to start.
Good advice from those who were in the trenches
Turner points out that the Canadian Death of Evidence march drew less than 1,000 people, but it was the catalyst that triggered a three-year campaign that ended up drawing thousands of supporters across Canada. Science covers a broad spectrum of disciplines and scientific evidence cannot be stifled.
Alan Bernstein, the president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research notes that research spending in the U.S. by the federal government has contributed to the development of lasers, Doppler radar, magnetic-resonance imaging and the Internet, to name just a few things, according to Scientific American.
US President Donald Trump caused outrage when he withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris clim...
US President Donald Trump caused outrage when he withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord
That's why Canadian scientists urged U.S. counterparts in the science and technology communities to download all scientific research and any other data that would have been erased from the Internet. But Turner and other scientists say there is a lot more American scientists can do to gain public support and it doesn't mean using frontal attacks on Trump.
One of the best pieces of advice from Canadian scientists is a jewel, actually. People will respond positively if they understand what it is you're talking about. So all fields of science and technology need to get the story behind the story out, explaining the research and development that took place in a way that everyone will understand.
In other words, when talking about data analytics and its use in tracking customer's preferences, cite a specific story behind the use of the technology. As Turner points out, "Piles of facts, reams of data, careful analysis, thoughtful conclusions — all the stuff of actual science is useless on this battlefield. This is a war of images and emotions and tribal allegiances."
More about Science, Research, Technology, war on science, Trump administration
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