policy

Canada names new chief science adviser

Mona Nemer, a cardiology researcher and vice president of research at the University of Ottawa, has been named Canada’s new chief science adviser by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Scientists need to have a voice,” Trudeau said, making the announcement in Ottawa today.

Nemer’s office will have a CA$2 million budget, and she will report to both Trudeau and Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan. Her mandate includes providing scientific advice to government ministers, helping keep government-funded science accessible to the public, and protecting government scientists from being muzzled.She will also deliver an annual report to the Prime Minister and science minister on the state of federal government science. Read more in Science.

Saving Canada’s Wild Salmon Policy

Canada already has a forward-thinking salmon management plan on the books. Now it just needs to implement it.

When Canada’s Policy for Conservation of Wild Pacific Salmon was announced in 2005, it was hailed as a major step forward for fisheries management in the country.

“It was a blueprint for how to manage, rebuild, and conserve wild salmon populations that puts conservation as the number-one priority,” says Aaron Hill, executive director of the Watershed Watch Salmon Society in Victoria, British Columbia. The most important part of the wild salmon policy, as it’s commonly known, is that it includes strategies and actions to achieve its goals, says Hill.

“That’s what makes the policy special,” he says. “It’s not just empty verbiage; it has some actual meat to it.” Or, it’s supposed to. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Federal government getting pressed on many sides to adopt Naylor report

Researchers, university administrators, students and others across Canada rally in an unprecedented effort to ensure the government doesn’t ignore the report’s recommendations.

Canada’s academic community has launched a full court press to encourage the government to adopt the recommendations of the report of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review panel, also known as the Naylor report.

The report, requested by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan in June 2016, was drawn up by a panel led by former University of Toronto president David Naylor and released this past April. It found that Canada has been falling behind its international peers in science in recent years, and recommended a major increase in funding for basic, investigator-led research. The panel’s recommendations, if fully implemented, would see annual federal spending on research-related activities increase from approximately $3.5 billion to $4.8 billion over four years. Read more in University Affairs.

Review of Canadian science calls for better oversight, coordination—and more money

To reinvigorate its science base, Canada needs to “reinvest” almost CAD$500 million in basic, investigator-led research over the next 4 years, according to a long-awaited review of the country’s science and innovation landscape released today.

“A crucial shortcoming in the system is the level of support for independent investigator-initiated research,” David Naylor, a former president of the University of Toronto in Canada who led the nine-person review panel, told ScienceInsider. “That support has been squeezed for about a decade.” Read more in Science.

US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. Read more in New Scientist.

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $18 million to Amundsen

CFI aims to secure ongoing operation and maintenance funds for research facilities including Canada’s only research icebreaker.

Laval University has received more than $18 million for the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen in the latest round of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund.

Over the next five years, the funding will mainly be used to maintain and deploy the coast guard ship’s scientific equipment and to pay the specialised engineers who operate the Arctic research vessel, says Louis Fortier, the Amundsen’s scientific director. But the money will also be used to subsidize some scientific projects that need a little extra cash. Read more in University Affairs.

Canada’s government scientists get anti-muzzling clause in contract

Scientists working for the Canadian government have successfully negotiated a clause in their new contract that guarantees their right to speak to the public and the media about science and their research, without needing approval from their managers.

“Employees shall have the right to express themselves on science and their research, while respecting the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector … without being designated as an official media spokesperson,” the new clause states. Read more in Science.

Is This the Year Governments Protect Antarctica’s Seas?

The odds world governments will finally agree to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean are looking better than ever.

The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is one of the most diverse, fragile, and poorly studied ocean ecosystems on Earth. But as far as marine protection goes, it’s the Wild West. That could soon change, as representatives from 24 countries plus the European Union sit down this week to discuss the establishment of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters off Antarctica. If the proposed protections go through, they will be the first of their kind for Antarctica’s marine environment. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

Building better borders in Latin America

Illegal trading and the violence that can accompany it is a scourge along Latin America’s borders, but researchers from across the region are working together to find ways to combat the problem.

Throughout much of Latin America, borders can be dangerous places. Smuggling, drug running and human trafficking are lucrative businesses — the United Nations estimates that the illegal drug trade in the region is worth $450 billion a year — and those that control it are not afraid to use violence to protect their investment.

It’s the people who live near borders that have to deal with the consequences of this violence, says Fernando Carrión, a researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Quito, Ecuador. “Border towns suffer from murder, robbery and insecurity, which hinders local development and integration between countries,” he says. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

Trump’s border-wall pledge threatens delicate desert ecosystems

Ecologists fear plan to seal off the United States from Mexico would put wildlife at risk.

With Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talking about walling off the United States from Mexico, ecologists fear for the future of the delicate and surprisingly diverse ecosystems that span Mexico’s border with the southwestern United States.

“The southwestern US and northwestern Mexico share their weather, rivers and wildlife,” says Sergio Avila-Villegas, a conservation scientist from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. “The infrastructure on the border cuts through all that and divides a shared landscape in two.” Read more in Nature.