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Canada Science

Canadian Government Trucking Generations of Scientific Data To the Dump 209

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-look-on-wikipedia dept.
sandbagger writes "Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump. The northern nation's scientific community has been up in arms over the holidays as local scientific libraries and records offices were closed and their shelves — some of which contained century old data — emptied into dumpsters. Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized. The scientists say, 'The people who use this research don’t have any say in what is being saved or tossed aside.'"
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Canadian Government Trucking Generations of Scientific Data To the Dump

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:06PM (#45961029)

    No. Seriously.

    • by shugah (881805)
      Another chapter in Stephen Harper's war on science.
      • You can't maintain an ideology built on premises that are designed to justify other premises of itself in the face of material evidence. The various hyper-conservatives around the English speaking world have decided(mostly in the space of 15 years) that eliminating the role of evidence is easier than shifting their positions a little bit.

        The weird part to me is how it happened in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia all on pretty much the same time scale. I can't come up with any theories that don't seem

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Every dictatorial government in recent history has practised the art of "book burning". The current Conservative government is on a quest to stamp out science that doesn't match their policies. The environment, the poor, seniors, veterans and many are paying the price to "balance" the 2015 budget. Conveniently an election year.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbows_End

  • by HellCatF6 (1824178) <HellCatF6@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:13PM (#45961099) Homepage

    ... is doomed to repeat it.

    Does anyone else get the impression that we're on the downside of civilization?

    • by NIK282000 (737852)

      It's quebec, they have been marching steadily backwards for decades now.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Does anyone else get the impression that we're on the downside of civilization?

      Sadly, for some number of years now.

      • by N1AK (864906) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:46AM (#45962851) Homepage
        Which is the same thing people far more notable than you were saying 100 years ago, 200 years ago etc etc.
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Very true.

          But in my lifetime I've watched some rights and freedoms erode, I've watched a general trend towards people being anti-science and willfully stupid, I've watched what I can only describe as a troubling rise in the role of religion in law, and governments increasingly just focused on expediency instead of the law.

          These are not things I consider to be positive trends.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Which is the same thing people far more notable than you were saying 100 years ago,

          Which would be January 1914. And they were right [wikipedia.org].

          The fact is, history has ups and downs. The West is currently on a slippery slope towards doom. It might end up in a disaster of epic proportions like the game of one-upmanship did 100 years ago, or it can be halted, like the Cuban missile crisis was. But right now, governments and corporations are competing in which can increase surveillance faster, political decisions with f

      • by Bucc5062 (856482)

        Only for the 99%

    • by godel_56 (1287256) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:02AM (#45961465)

      ... is doomed to repeat it.

      Does anyone else get the impression that we're on the downside of civilization?

      It's hard to learn from history when the records of it have been shredded.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's hard to learn from history when the records of it have been shredded.

        Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
        -- George Orwell (1984)

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Yup. We didn't learn from electing conservatives last time (Lyin' Brian), so we gave them a majority again. Maybe it'll stick this time.

    • I think many people have, throughout the history of civilization, gotten that impression, yes.
      • by Capsaicin (412918) *

        I think many people have, throughout the history of civilization, gotten that impression, yes.

        And, one imagines, most especially when their particular civilisations were in decline. Not that we would know what that feels like.

        • I don't know, I suspect the rate of people saying their civilization is in decline isn't really correlated with actual decline. I have no idea how one would measure that. But either way, I don't think we can use an opinion poll to determine if things are actually going downhill.
    • by Epeeist (2682)

      ... is doomed to repeat it.

      A far better quotation is:

      Those who begin by burning books will end by burning people.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:20PM (#45961157)

    Clearly there is a lot of smoke and hot air being generated, not sure if there is really much of a fire.

    That’s no way to treat a library, scientists say [thestar.com]

    Their internationally renowned collections have been transferred to the two federal aquatic libraries that remain, in Sidney, B.C., and in Dartmouth, N.S. ...

    Gail Shea, minister of fisheries and oceans, accuses critics of spreading “serious misinformation.” Her department insists there will be “no changes to the size or scope of the collection.”

    In a statement emailed to the Star by her spokesperson, Shea said no more than a dozen nonemployees visited each library annually. And more than 95 per cent of documents provided to users were done so over the Internet.

    “It’s not fair to taxpayers to make them pay for libraries that so few people actually used,” Shea says, explaining the government’s main reason for consolidating the collections. The closings will save $443,000 in 2014-2015, according to government estimates. .....

    The research, Ayles argues, “is effectively lost because it’s no longer accessible. It’s like stuff in your grandfather’s basement.”

    So the data hasn't disappeared, it's now in another library where it is less convenient to access.

    • by dryeo (100693) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:37PM (#45961273)

      Bullshit. Even the former Torie Minister of Fisheries says this is nuts along with most every other decision this government has made when it comes to the fisheries. This government has exactly one aim, to sell tar, I mean oil, gotta be politically correct.
      They've pissed away the budget surplus while claiming to be conservative and much better fiscal managers. They've sold or allowed to be sold much of the tar, whoops I mean bitumen sands to China. They import foreign workers at a never before seen rate, not to do IT as they don't believe in it but to work at McDonalds and Tim Hortons and force wages even lower while Chinese investors drive the cost of living up. They treat a 38% win as an overwhelming mandate and cry about how it is undemocratic for the majority to vote against them and prorogue Parliament whenever they feel like it because, you know, democracy.
      Sorry I don't have any assistants to help me get links, I'm in Canada so only have a dial-up connection.

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        They've sold or allowed to be sold much of the tar, whoops I mean bitumen sands to China.

        So?
        Do you have a preference as to where Canada sells its petroleum products?

        Keystone XL was mostly about getting Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico for easier shipment to China.
        Canada is also looking at making deals with India for oil sales.
        I imagine you have and opinion on that as well?

        • by khallow (566160)

          Keystone XL was mostly about getting Canadian oil to the Gulf of Mexico for easier shipment to China.

          No. It was for easier shipment to high volume refineries. Now afterward, I suppose they could sell it in China or they could sell it in the largest oil market in the world which these refineries happen to be in the middle of.

        • by dryeo (100693) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:43AM (#45962343)

          The problem isn't selling bitumen to China, though if we have to buy gasoline produced from that bitumen from China it is a problem. The problem is China owning the majority of the bitumen sands. And yes if India was buying up all the oil producing land and companies in Alberta I'd have a problem with that.
          The other problem I have is selling raw product instead of adding value here. Even the Keystone pipeline was bad that way as it leaves us dependent on US refineries on the Gulf coast.
          We're a major oil producing nation and gas is $1.30 a litre and the local refinery (the last one left) which is located at the end of a pipeline (Kinder Morgans) has to buy foreign oil as the Chinese have already claimed our production.

          • by Dr. Evil (3501)

            "... selling raw product instead of adding value..."

            Mod parent up. Inco is another example of this. There's a pattern of this government and short term thinking. They're messing with the housing market, selling rights to resources and resource extraction companies, crushing scientific debate and discipline.

        • They ship to China via the Gulf of Mexico? Are there no ports in BC, Washington, Oregon, or California?

          • by rnturn (11092)

            They're not selling the raw material to China. They're shipping it to the Gulf coast where there are oil refineries and easy shipping to China. I imagine that the economic effect for Canada is about the same as it will be for the U.S.: our gas prices will increase once the tar sands begin getting turned into fuel for export. We get to deal with the ugly side effects of using the damned stuff (fouled water suppplies from spills, increases in cancer downwind from the refineries, etc.)

            This has been in the new

    • by NIK282000 (737852)

      And how much do you trust electronic storage? In my 15 years of computer use I have had a hell of a lot more hard drives fail than books. Put them in shipping crates and leave them some where dry. Even if they sit there for a thousand years they may still be useful to some one else after we are all gone. No one thinks about the REALLY long game.

      • by vux984 (928602)

        Even if they sit there for a thousand years they may still be useful to some one else after we are all gone. No one thinks about the REALLY long game.

        I've read quite a bit of reasearch that suggests dumps packed so tight that nothing in them decomposes...

        So a dump might well be the best place for them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      In a statement emailed to the Star by her spokesperson...

      OK, who do you trust? The spokesperson for a minister with no scientific background and who has no idea what actually happens on the ground, or the scientists who have spent their entire careers working for below-market pay just because they love the pursuit of knowledge?

      And come on, a savings of $443k a year for a federal library with over a hundred years of data? That paltry savings is just a drop in the bucket for the federal budget. That's the cost of around five people per year, when it probably cost h

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        No, that's the cost of ten people. Almost 15 if you're just hiring clerks. We don't pay workers very much.
    • by ancarett (221103) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:51PM (#45961373)
      Don't believe Shea's claims about the usage numbers. Those stats reflect people who requested help in using the libraries - relatively rare with specialized research collections where a host of users just get to work in what used to be showpiece collections. Many of these users came from the DFO institutions but also from outside, including academics, people in industry and other government employees. The provision of materials over the internet? Largely had to be digitized from library collections. Now we'll have neither the collections nor the librarians to do so.

      The hasty closures and haphazard deaccessioning of these collections that represent substantial investments of taxpayer money over decades? Entirely the opposite of what conservatives claim to value - careful custody of a nation's heritage and citizen investment. (Canada's federal government is in the control of the Progressive Conservative party, hard at work muzzling the scientists [thetyee.ca] supported by our tax dollars.)

      From The Tyee [thetyee.ca]'s December 23 story on the topic, "What Driving Chaotic Dismantling of Canada's Science Libraries" [thetyee.ca]: Moreover records on library usage were overtly biased and based on who asked for help, said Burton Ayles, a retired director general for DFO who lives in Winnipeg and has used the Freshwater Institute library frequently.

      "Most people that come in to the library don't have to request help. They just use the material. Just look at any regular library."
      • The Tyee article [thetyee.ca] you link to does paint a very different picture, but I also have to wonder how even handed it is given some bits like the passage below:

        Many scientists, including Hutchings and world famous water ecologist David Schindler, compared the government's concerted attacks on environmental science to the rise of fascism and the total alignment of state and corporate interests in 1930s Europe.

        "You look at the rise of certain political parties in the 1930s," noted Hutchings, "and have to ask how could that happen and how did they adopt such extreme ideologies so quickly, and how could that happen in a democracy today?"

        Fascists? Really?

        • by dryeo (100693)

          Fascists? Really?

          Really. Instead of caring about things like human rights and serving the people of Canada, now the government only serves [some] businesses. A good example is diplomacy where we've historically pushed for more human rights. Well no more. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/tories-new-foreign-affairs-vision-shifts-focus-to-economic-diplomacy/article15624653/ [theglobeandmail.com]
          This government is also doing the usual fascist things such as pushing nationalism, law and order where the idea is to expand the police state a

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            No not really. You've successfully used three different sources two of which are known for excessively strong anti-conservative leanings, for the sake of being anti-conservative. Both the CBC & G&M have an axe to grind. The CBC doesn't even try to hide it's bias, while the latter it's a thin veneer. As for foreign radicals going after the pipelines, oilsands, and all the rest? You bet and you'd best believe it happens. I was in sour gas alley, and you might remember the case about the guy who

            • The primary source of information here are the scientists who are up in arms about this, not the news agencies who are reporting on it.

              When the scientists say that they cannot find the papers they went looking for anymore, I'm going to believe them on that, not the government.

              Unless you're saying that all those scientists are also anti-conservative. But then again, at this point, they kinda have a reason to be.

            • by microbox (704317)

              which are known for excessively strong anti-conservative leanings

              I'm always amused when conservatives appeal to the "they're just biased" defense when defending their own constructed world of spin. Saying that the CBC has an obvious liberal bias flies in the face of academic media analysis, but I'm sure you think the universities are "just biased" too. And you have the truth.

              It seems that Idiot America [amazon.com] has come to Canada.

            • by rnturn (11092)

              ``And of course, the majority source of that money is ultra-leftwing environmental groups from? If you guessed the US, you won a cookie.''

              So you don't think that us Americans have any interest at all in plans for the transportation of toxic tar sands across our land and aquifers? I'd be more riled up if American environmental groups were not supporting their counterparts in Canada.

            • by horigath (649078)

              No not really. You've successfully used three different sources two of which are known for excessively strong anti-conservative leanings, for the sake of being anti-conservative. Both the CBC & G&M have an axe to grind.

              The Globe and Mail endorsed the Conservatives in the last three elections. So I'm not sure in what circles they are known for disliking them.

        • by microbox (704317)

          Fascists? Really?

          fascists were book burners too.

          The article is just saying that that is Hutching's opinion.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @12:01AM (#45961459)

      Actually this is a BIG deal.
      The purpose of these department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) libraries was not for the general public to access them - they were for government scientists in these research centres be able able to proper research and be able to do studies on climate/fish-habitat change over time, which includes looking up past materials and reports. For a "non-employee" to access, these government libraries actually requires a fairly lengthy application process.

      In the past, governments have relied on these scientists to give them accurate reports on what is happening in the environment, so the government could make informed policy decisions based on facts. Without good research materials this is very hard to do. (or maybe that's the point...)

      One of the greatest losses will be "grey materials" - reports that are hard to find because they were never "officially published", and may not exist in any other library. Or they may exist elsewhere, but it requires a lengthy wait to locate the materials and have them shipped assuming the other library will lend them out. Reports are now coming in that very few of the materials are actually being scanned, and most are just being thrown out.

      The move is especially disappointing because the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (a politician) is saying this move will save "$443,000" over one year. This is the same federal government that spent $9 million dollars last year on advertising to make people feel better about their cell phone bills.

      And, yes I'm Canadian. It's not a good situation.
      (name withheld)

  • Harper's doing a great job of dumping anything related to science into the trash. It's a sad thing to see something so fundamental pushed aside like rotten food in favour of short term economic gains. So much power with less than 40% of the vote... how about some proportional representation up here, maybe? It seems somewhat disingenuous to ignore thousands of votes and still claim to be a healthy democracy.
  • Google could have archived all that data like no one else on the planet. Canadian universities and libraries should have called them in before the obviously incompetent people showed up (or maybe save places not visited yet). Reminds me of the phrase: "We are from the government and we are here to help you."

    • by dryeo (100693) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:44PM (#45961319)

      As if the government would give any warning, there's a reason it was done over the holidays. The PMO (Prime Ministers Office) has an iron grip on the government and nothing is said or done without their say so. This from a government that ran on being open and transparent and more democratic and yet make Obama look very open and non-authoritarian.

  • I think they've already named all the spiders.

  • A war. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hendrikboom (1001110) on Tuesday January 14, 2014 @11:32PM (#45961239)

    There's a war on science in this country. It's a disaster. And it'll continue at least until the next election, which may be years away. I'm ashamed of what's happening to my country.

    -- hendrik, a Canadian.

    • by diodeus (96408)

      The single-minded focus on the (tar sands) economy has demonstrated that the current Canadian Government has lost touch with what's important to the Canadian people.

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      Welcome to the downward spiral my friend. You can take a seat right behind the US.

  • Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized

    320x200 jpegs stored on 5 1/4" floppies is good enough for anyone!

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized

      320x200 jpegs stored on 5 1/4" floppies is good enough for anyone!

      Single sided or Double sided? I still have my C64 disk notcher for the single sided drives...

  • Can't people file freedom of information requests for this data. That should lock it up legally.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      I guess you missed the whole part where this story is not taking place in the United States...

  • by fox171171 (1425329) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:14AM (#45962711)
    Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized.

    Yeah, it's all ones and zeros now.
    Harper - 1
    Science - 0
  • by hebertrich (472331) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @07:29AM (#45963487)

    Harper has GOT to go . He's not only a foe to science but an enemy of the People of Canada.

  • yup, I've seen some digitizing fuckups in my day... whole reams of paper feed through a scanner the wrong way up so only blank reverse sides got scanned... whole reams of double sided copy fed through the scanner in single sided mode...

    and the mistakes weren't picked up when they could be easily corrected either... no double checking was being done of the scanner settings or the operator feeding it in before the button was pressed to start scanning.... It wasn't until the digitised copies were being proof r

  • Here's the story:

    a) "the people" insist the government to scale back on spending, so they do.
    b) departments cannot get $$ to build additional storage and so have to scale back holdings
    c) the task is passed to the librarians who themselves have been subject to staff cuts. Why? Because a scientific department will cut 'superfluous staff', like librarians, before they cut 'necessary' staff, like scientists.
    d) the librarians left have to scan what they must (can't scan it all because of $$/time limits) and

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