Scientists across the country are expressing growing alarm that federal cutbacks to research programs monitoring areas that range from climate change and ocean habitats to public health will deprive Canadians of crucial information.
“What’s important is the scale of the assault on knowledge, and on our ability to know about ourselves and to advance our understanding of our world,” said James Turk, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
In the past five years the federal government has dismissed more than 2,000 scientists, and hundreds of programs and world-renowned research facilities have lost their funding. Programs that monitored things such as smoke stack emissions, food inspections, oil spills, water quality and climate change have been drastically cut or shut down.
This week, scientists went public with concerns that irreplaceable science could be lost when Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries are closed. DFO plans to shut down seven of its 11 libraries by 2015. Already, stories have emerged about books and reports thrown into dumpsters and the general public being allowed to rummage through bookshelves.
The government responded that the information will not disappear. On Monday, DFO told CBC News that “all of its copyrighted material has been digitized and that the rest of its collection will be soon.”
"Users will continue to have completely free access to every item in DFO’s collections. All materials for which DFO has copyright will be preserved by the department," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea wrote in a statement to CBC.
But Turk says the problem is not just the loss of existing library collections.
“It also means that going forward, whether it be policy analysts or scientists or members of the public, there won’t be a library there that collects material for them to use. So there’s not only the danger of losing what we’ve had, which may be irreplaceable, but it’s also in future, that resource isn’t going to be there in the first place.”
Research cutbacks by government alarm scientists