A politician, a senior bureaucrat, and a blog

Bonjour Dr. Ghoussoub. I very much enjoy your blog… as a science policy junkie I find it a useful antidote to the meanderings of the so-called science and innovation policies in Ottawa and elsewhere … perhaps you already saw this speech given its subject (by Australian minister of tertiary education, skills, science and research, Chris Evans), but hard to imagine someone here giving such a talk.  

The email was of course music to my ears. Sustained blogging is hard work, and it is nice to know that someone is reading and appreciating. It felt even better, when I googled the emailer and realized that he is actually a veteran of science policy and not just a “policy junkie”.

A legislative assistant then wrote, “we have been following your blog carefully, and it is an excellent resource to understand the scientific and scholarly communities.” And more of this have been coming lately as scholars, policy makers, and politicians were converging on Vancouver for the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Some are asking to meet, which is quite a new experience considering that most of them only know me through a blog I started a mere 15 months ago.

A highlight was a meeting with Hélène LeBlanc, Députée de LaSalle-Émard, and Critic for Science and Technology for the New Democratic Party. Minimal representation from the federal government at the AAAS had surely made her presence at the convention noticeable and appreciated. In my opinion, she now has the most interesting job in the world.

Indeed, the NDP has never had a Science and Technology platform. At least, I couldn’t find one, when I was trying to relay the R&D positions and policies of the various parties during the last election campaign. But now that the NDP is the Official Opposition, it is obviously imperative that they develop a complete and coherent vision about this aspect of governing. And this responsibility must have  obviously landed on Madame LeBlanc’s shoulders.

I was pleasantly struck by her eagerness to do so in a most systematic manner. She has been meeting scientists in Montréal on a regular basis trying to learn about the various issues from the bottom up. She wanted to “pick my brains” and I was happy to share what I know, which is what I try to do with my blog readers on a regular basis. My main advice? Keep the channels of communication open with front-line researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

You would think that all scholars, policy makers and politicians are happy to see a less sanitized picture of life in the academic/research community. Not so!

“Your blog is an issue”, wrote a friend who was trying to engineer a “détente” and a meeting at the AAAS between “Piece of Mind” and an obviously vexed Ottawa official. It was not to be and the “détente” will have to wait for another day.

In contrast, I stumbled on a colleague who said supportively: “Whether it is complacency or lack of courage, it is very disturbing to see the research community watching and accepting the sorts of changes that are happening, and it is great to have someone like you speaking out.”

Let me conclude by re-iterating that this blog is about issues, important issues that are nothing short of vital to scholars, whether in Canada or elsewhere in our small world. I for one, always appreciate any feedback, whether complimentary or critical, especially when it leads to great personal encounters such as the ones I had this week-end during the AAAS meeting in Vancouver.

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3 Responses to A politician, a senior bureaucrat, and a blog

  1. Peter Bell says:

    ‘Sustained blogging’ certainly is hard work – even for the readers! – but it is good work. Some opinions of corporate media makes a strong case for blogs like yours, which is special (controversial?) because of the ‘inside perspective’ it provides on policy discussion. I think you’ve set a good example in a tricky area. Thanks!

    • Ghoussoub says:

      Thanks Peter for your supportive comments. If you think about it, my input has essentially been to bring to the surface certain widely available data. This input looks sometimes “controversial” because it compares and analyses this data a bit more closely than “usual”.

  2. Pingback: Goodyear: “This is a moratorium for one year as we seek counsel from the scientific community” | Piece of Mind

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