History of Science Journalism

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1970-1990

Science during This Era

The environment, a new sector under scrutiny and research

Because of the context of a growing environmental crisis, ecology now overshadowed botany and zoology. The focus now was on the study of ecosystems and the impact of human activities on the environment. Molecular biology and genetics superseded the study of classifications of the living. Physical sciences such as aeronautics, astrophysics, particle physics and nuclear physics (following the energy crisis of the 1970s) occupied pole positions in research.

The value of research

Science now involved international networks. For example, scientific articles were produced by teams of researchers whose members were from several countries. Participation in international conventions became a generalized practice.

The publication of research results in scientific magazines was a central aspect of scientific production. These articles were vital sources of information for science journalists.

One trend stood out: the state, industry and society measured the legitimacy of research on the basis of its practical applications.

Scientific policy becomes the foundation

Research demanded more and more financing, and government increased their support of scientific activities. Parallel to this, government set up policies to coordinate the work of researchers and industrial development. In 1971, the federal government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau established tax measures to encourage research and development. However, the first national policy governing science and technology was adopted only in 1987.

In Quebec, as early as 1970, the government was actively involved in scientific development in the province. Voted to power in 1976, the government of the Parti québécois integrated science and technology into its 'societal project.' Reforms proposed thereafter included increased funding for research, the promotion of the popularization of science and the educational reform governing how science was taught at the elementary and high school levels. In 1983, the government passed the Loi sur le développement scientifique au Québec (scientific development act). This law led to the creation of the Conseil de la science et de la technologie, whose mandate was to advise the government on issues related to scientific and technological development in Quebec.

Private funding of university research

As of the 1980s, scientific policy placed the emphasis on innovations likely to be commercialized. The government financed advanced research carried out by private enterprise. Gradually, universities were encouraged to develop closer ties with industry. However, as private investment increased, it became increasingly difficult to separate scientific objectives from economic interests. University researchers began to lose their autonomy.