By Kai Chan
The 2013 meeting of the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) squarely targets international collaboration and making science useful for decision-making, but right from the get-go, the meeting has been a story about colossal government impediments to the nation-to-nation and science-policy interfaces.
First is the story of the absences on account of the US government shutdown. Whole sessions of this scientific conference are in tremendous flux, as US government presenters are both barred from attending, and from communicating via their work emails (e.g., about their travel/conference plans and changes to those). In this case, blame cannot be laid on the executive branch (the White House and federal agencies) alone, and where blame lies is beyond the scope of this blog.
Second is the very different story of Canadian government attendees. Ian Perry of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) kicked off the meeting with a wide-ranging and eloquent talk, including much that pertains to the future of the FUTURE program at PICES (Forecasting and Understanding Trends, Uncertainty and Responses of North Pacific Marine Ecosystems). And yet, at the same time, there are reports of numerous federal government employees being denied the opportunity to present or attend at the PICES meeting—including those working just minutes away at the Pacific Biological Station of DFO.
Clearly, the Canadian problem is not one of insufficient resources, for folks who could ride their bicycles to the meeting but were prevented from doing so. Instead, the problem lies in the bureaucratic process by which federal government employees wishing to attend a science meeting must apply six months in advance to a non-transparent process of approval.
South of the US-Canada border and north of it, we have different underlying issues and different bureaucratic processes by which obstacles are raised, but both nations have erected barriers to the productive communication and collaboration of Americans with Canadians and of scientists with policymakers.