ISSP hosts panel of Canadian Chief Scientists

By: Sam Garnett

February 07, 2018

At an ISSP event held in Ottawa last week, three Canadian Chief Scientists, Dr. Mona Nemer, Dr. Molly Shoichet, and Dr. Remi Quirion participated in a panel to discuss the rise of science advice in Canadian government. They spoke of the need to communicate science to the public and to restore public trust in science. Remi Quirion emphasized the role of the next generation of scientists in this endeavour. Our co-president Shawn McGuirk was in attendance and spoke to University Affairs afterwards, where he pointed out that students need help in order to fulfill these goals.

From University Affairs:

“Shawn McGuirk, who attended the panel discussion, said that’s putting a lot of pressure on students. “There also has to be some discussion about how the next generation needs to be supported to do this,” he said.

“Given only one in six students will end up in a professorship, students need to be made aware of the careers that are science-adjacent. Those careers are more in the public realm, so they will need communications skills,” he said. “For those who end up in a professorship, they need to understand that public outreach is an important part of being a scientist in Canada.”

Science advice may be nearing a renaissance, “but we’re not there yet,” he said. “We have this age of the viral spread of misinformation. We need to make sure the public feels connected to science in some way,” he said. “There can’t be this ivory tower where the public feels science is inaccessible or a higher power.”

That might mean “humanizing” scientists, said Mr. McGuirk. “The goal is to make sure that whatever science is being done is being translated back to the public in some way. Whether it’s by the scientists who are doing the research or communicators who can make that link.””

Read the full piece in University Affairs here.