My time at E4D

It’s bittersweet to announce that my time as Director of Policy at Evidence for Democracy is coming to a close.

When I joined the small but mighty team nearly 3 years ago, we had just begun a pilot program for training researchers, and were learning how to lobby a new government. Over the last year in particular, I have been able to support dozens of researchers in sharpening their government relations and advocacy skills, and have had the chance to work closely with partner organizations, political allies, and scientists to ensure that all Canadians benefit from smart policy decisions. I’ve enjoyed the lobbying and policy work so much, I’ll be moving on to do more of this with Compass Rose in Ottawa. 

Back when I was hired at E4D, I had limited science policy knowledge, few connections to the Canadian science community, and deep anxiety around steering a non-profit organization for the first time as interim Executive Director as Katie Gibbs had gone on parental leave. I arrived to the team with what felt like so little, and am leaving with so much, including an immense amount of hope.

In April 2016, when I first started in my new role, we were fresh out of a federal election with a new government in place, and a promise to “restore science to its rightful place.” To put this in full context, I joined E4D a mere 6 months after the science community successfully made science an election issue.

So I was intimidated, to say the least. On top of that, I was regularly asked what E4D would do next, since we “won.” I had very serious, regular inquiries in the form of “Does E4D have plans of wrapping up?”

Meanwhile, with the help of our networks and Board of Directors, we had just developed an ambitious to-do list full of key pieces of legislation we wanted to see changed, research funding we knew needed restoration, and a dream of seeing the establishment of a Chief Science Officer and implementation of federal science integrity policies….all within 3 years. Over the last 2.5 years, our staff internally started to call these ambitious intentions “obnoxious goals.”

My time started with the re-establishment of the mandatory long-form census (census selfie, anyone?) and is ending with the forthcoming implementation of federal science integrity policies. In between these book-ends, I got to witness an astonishing response to American anti-science sentiments through the March for Science, a unified campaign by the research community around the Fundamental Science Review, the appointment of Dr. Nemer as Chief Science Advisor, and the temporary restoration of funding to PEARL.

Looking back, that initial intimidation has lead the way for immense gratitude, awe, and hope. As it turned out, E4D met many of those “obnoxious goals” in under 3 years. But not on our own. Time and time again, I have been amazed by the generosity of our supporters, the commitment of our volunteers, and by the science community with their abilities, drive, and vision.

I’m leaving E4D at a time when our democratic principles and processes are under growing threat, and we’re only 1 year out from a federal election. It’s a troubling time, to be sure. But I’m also leaving with hope. I now know first hand that a community of folks dedicated to improving our democracy, coupled with political will, can achieve an immense amount of progress.

So while the rapid spread of misinformation and polarized debate are worrying, I know there is a dedicated group of people, with some crazy “obnoxious goals” putting up the good fight. It’s not just E4D, but literally tens of thousands of Canadians who care deeply about science and our democracy. And I’ll still be one of them. 

My experience at E4D has been nothing short of spectacular. I’m looking forward to seeing what the staff, science community, and their supporters do next.

 

Kathleen Walsh

Director of Policy

Kathleen Walsh is driven by a passion for social innovation and finding ways to make policy more effective, inclusive, and based on robust evidence. She serves as Evidence for Democracy's Director of Policy, and was previously the organization's Interim Executive Director.