Science as a Right: a panel discussion in recognition of UN Human Rights Day

Special event examines the importance of public truth in an era of alternate facts, December 10
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Beaconsfield Historic House

The University of Prince Edward Island, along with the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization), present “Science as a Right”, a panel discussion in recognition of the United Nations Human Rights Day. The event is Monday, December 10 from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at the Beaconsfield Carriage House, 2 Kent Street in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

In 2013, there were 160,000 researchers in Canada, and this country produced 4 per cent of the world’s scientific publications. Research has become increasingly focused on the biomedical area and less on social sciences and humanities, which are equally important in understanding how our societies function as their demographics change.

Only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize for physics, chemistry, or medicine since 1903, compared with 572 men. Only 28% of the world’s researchers are women. Gender disparity is science is still very evident at scientific seminars.

It is also timely to examine various ways of associating traditional indigenous knowledge with scientific research in areas such as the environment, natural resources, and sustainable development.

Chaired by Dr. Katherine Gottschall-Pass, dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Prince Edward Island, this panel discussion will begin to address these issues.

“Free and open access to science is the best way to improve society, and this panel discussion will emphasize the importance of science in policy and decision-making. Science is the gathering of hypotheses and the endless testing of them,” said Dr. Gottschall-Pass. “It involves checking and double-checking, self-criticism, and a willingness to overturn even fundamental assumptions if they prove to be wrong. But none of this can happen without open communication among scientists and with the public. Without it guarantees public ignorance.”

The panel will include:

Dr. Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Research Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, on the suppression of federal government scientists. A five-year study by Canada’s information commissioner, Suzanne Legault, concluded this year that complaints that former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was muzzling scientists were “well founded”, and that some federal scientists say they still feel muzzled by the current government.

Dr. John McIntyre from the University of Prince Edward Island, on the culture of science in the US and elsewhere. Climate science and other consensus-driven research often runs afoul of longstanding American beliefs in individualism and liberty. In this environment, scientists are often plagued by the misguided notion of false equivalences.

Dr. Joshua MacFadyen, the Canada Research Chair in Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture at the University of Prince Edward Island, on communicating the science of sustainability.

Stephanie Arnold, graduate student at the University of Prince Edward Island, on communicating climate science to the younger generations.

All are welcome.

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.

Dave Atkinson
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