Sorry Rick Mercer, I’d love to agree but I think you’re wrong
Rick Mercer [on November 18] went on a rant about science –
about how impressive it is that scientists managed to land on a
comet half a billion kilometres away, how the current Canadian
government fails to support “pure science,” and how the Canadian
public is “as passionate and curious as anyone else.” While I
would agree that the comet landing is neat and that there have
been governments that were more supportive, I’m not so convinced
by the (lovely!) idea that the Canadian public loves science.
I believe Rick Mercer thinks that science is cool, and I even
believe that he would be pleased to see his tax dollars (and maybe
even his charitable dollars) go to support bluesky research.
But I do not believe Mr. Mercer’s idea that Canadians as a whole
are interested although I, like him, would wish it to be the case.
I think Mr. Mercer’s claims about Canadians’ passions are
anecdotal at best, and lack any evidence – indeed it is possible that
Canadians don’t give a hoot about science for science’s sake. …
Dr. Kent is a CIHR postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge, where he studies stem cell biology. He is also an executive member
of the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars.
Canadians dolove science!
as a graduate student in science communica
tions, and having worked for three years on the
front lines at a science centre, I would agree with
Rick Mercer that Canadians love science and that
they do get excited about it. They may not always
understand or get excited about the finer details
of how things work, as you mentioned, but they
sure do get excited about the cures, new techno
logies and discoveries and those are all part of
science and the public understands that.
You also point out that the United Kingdom
has great programs that are being exported and
we don’t see similar programs here in Canada.
Could it be that we are having trouble getting
these things off the ground not because of a lack
of passion from the Canadian people or lack of
desire on the part or our broadcasters (Quirks and
Quarks, Ideas, The Nature of Things are but a few
great Canadian programs that show that passion
and desire), but, as Rick Mercer pointed out,
[because of] a government that is not funding
science, science communication or even public
communication in general? Our public broad
caster keeps facing cuts to its funding, so when
the CBC goes to propose something like Planet
Earth, can they justify earmarking $25 million
and five years of time (the cost and time required
for Planet Earth) when they are uncertain if they
will continue with the same level of funding?
Kevin S. Mogk
We need more ways of connecting with Canadians
i’m the executive director for the Canadian
Association of Science Centres, working with
informal science communications professionals
(like Kevin) across the country. I’ve noticed in
my experience, working in a science centre and
Editor's note: This is how David Kent began a recent post for The Black Hole blog on the University Affairs’ website.
His post provoked a lively conversation and we’re printing some of the comments it received, below. Please go
to the Opinion section at www.universityaffairs.ca to read the full post and many more comments.