Silence of the labs

The CBC’s Fifth estate devotes 1 hour to exploring the sorry state of federal science in Canada.

The link above takes you to CBC’s official page which might not work for some people outside of Canada, but thankfully someone has posted it to YouTube.

Only briefly touched upon at the end of the Silence of the Labs program is the closure and destruction of several science libraries across the country containing irreplaceable data going back as much as 100 years. These closures were sold to the public saying that any material destroyed or sold would first be digitized and thus be made more widely available (a great idea) but only a tiny fraction of materials were ever digitized so lots of irreplaceable and potentially vital information was lost forever.

Scientists say the closure of some of the world’s finest fishery, ocean and environmental libraries by the Harper government has been so chaotic that irreplaceable collections of intellectual capital built by Canadian taxpayers for future generations has been lost forever.

Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Quebec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg’s historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

Furthermore, the government is falsely claiming that vital content is being retained by extensively digitizing material from nine regional libraries that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) whittled down to two.

“The Department has claimed that all useful information from the closed libraries is available in digital form. This is simply not true. Much of the material is lost forever,” reports one DFO scientist who requested not to be named.

That picture of a taxpayer-funded treasure trove of information laid waste emerges from interviews by The Tyee with half a dozen prominent scientists, many of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear that their funding or other government support could be hurt if their names were connected with the concerns they were eager to share.

In fact if a secret government document is to be believed then digitizing materials form these libraries was never the point.

A federal document marked “secret” obtained by Postmedia News indicates the closure or destruction of more than half a dozen world famous science libraries has little if anything to do with digitizing books as claimed by the Harper government.

In fact, the document, a compendium of cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans… mentions only the “culling of materials” as the “main activities” involved as the science libraries are reduced from nine to two. Specifically, it details “culling materials in the closed libraries or shipping them to the two locations and culling materials in the two locations to make room for collections from closed libraries.”

Uncertainty is a common reason stated for a lack of meaningful action on climate change. The large scale destruction of data like this helps ensure that the future remains uncertain.

7 thoughts on “Silence of the labs

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  1. Apocalyptic. Worse than I told a friend who just came back from Canada. A rogue nation corrupted by fossil fools. At least they still have CBC – how long? Canada, Australia, … who next to switch to the dark side?

  2. Ridiculous! Digitizing and storing the data will not take 1% of what it cost to collect it. And since we can’t go back in time, some of the data simply cannot be replicated at any cost.

  3. this or something similar should be mandatory to watch in a history lesson in 2200AD school, where ever that may be.

  4. “Flying Blind”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Flying blind is what we’re doing
    Turning off the RADAR viewing
    Killing science where it lies
    Letting in the buzzing flies

    HT to professor of atmospheric sciences Tom Duck for the metaphor

    1. woops, the “turned off the RADAR” metaphor was from marine scientists Dr. Peter Ross

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