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Photo courtesy of Evidence for Democracy (Facebook)

Ottawa March for Science promotes and opens up evidence-based dialogue to the public

By Andrew Monro on May 1, 2018


Andrew Monro is Apt613’s correspondent at Impact Hub Ottawa, writing about the many innovators that call Hub home. Hub is a co-working space at 123 Slater Street for projects with a positive local and global impact.

What do we want?
Evidence-based decision-making!
When do we want it?
After peer review!

Dozens of people gathered on the cold morning of April 14 on Parliament Hill for the March for Science. First started in 2017 in Washington D.C., this is a global event of more than 200 rallies and marches, calling on a worldwide need for non-partisan support toward scientific research and policymaking.

The Ottawa event was organized by Evidence for Democracy, a not-for-profit advocacy organization based out of Impact Hub Ottawa that promotes the use of evidence in governmental decisions, in partnership with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Katie Gibbs, Evidence for Democracy’s Executive Director, led the March. “Science matters! Whether you’re aware of it or not, science affects you on a daily basis,” she says. “Science protects our health and our environment, and provides us with the facts and evidence to hold our governments accountable. So it’s up to all of us to make sure that science in Canada is well funded, openly communicated to the public, and used in decision-making.”

The March began on the Hill, then proceeded down to the ByWard Market, where 20 science professionals and storytellers held conversations with the public about their work and various important science-related issues.

Educator Guiliano Reis at the March for Science. Photo by Alex Tetreault.

When I talk to my students, I remind them that we [teachers/adults] often do not bother to listen to what the younger ones have to say.

“I believe that the most important aspect to consider when it comes to making science accessible and how abstract concepts bridge with lived experience is your audience’s background knowledge,” says Giuliano Reis, an educator and one of the storytellers, discussing the challenges facing science education.

“One needs to take the time to get to know the people they are talking to. It’s just too easy to ‘assume’ what people know and don’t know based on where they live, their age and also how they look. This is wrong.

“When I talk to my students, I remind them that we [teachers/adults] often do not bother to listen to what the younger ones have to say—very often we take it for granted that we know more, that we know better… children are not ‘tabula rasa’ (empty vessels) that we must fill with information. Paulo Freire (the famous Brazilian philosopher) called this the ‘banking kind of education,’ where we ‘deposit’ facts, names, formulas, etc. into the heads of our students. We no longer can afford to practice this type of education.”

One of the successes for science and research in Canada celebrated at the March was an increase to research funding in the budget of the federal government. “We are reminded of how far Canadian science and evidence has come,” says Katie. “But there is more to do in public outreach and discourse around science, evidence-based policy, and evidence in Canada. We’re looking forward to celebrating new wins for science in 2019 and to engaging more science enthusiasts focused on taking on the next challenges and shaping the future.”

The staff at Evidence for Democracy thank their event partners, the science storytellers, as well as the many volunteers who helped make the event a success, despite the cold weather, as well as the City of Ottawa for the use of space in the Market.