An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs
[Original publication in In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal]
Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen
Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal
Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada
Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing
Numbering: Issue 10.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Six)
Individual Publication Date: April 1, 2016 (2016–04–01)
Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2016 (2016–05–01)
Frequency: Three Times Per Year
Web Domain: www.in-sightjournal.com
An interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs. She discusses: background in science; self-definition as a “scientist, organizer, and advocate for science and evidence-based policies”; social and political campaigning; tasks and responsibilities as the executive director for Evidence for Democracy; public scientific organizations with the intent to inform public policy personal importance; organization for the “Death of Evidence” rally; professional research background influence on work at E4D; purposes of E4D; core message for the public; responsibilities to the public, scientific, and public policy communities with exposure in the media as a central representative of E4D; observed impacts of E4D on policy and decision-making; and E4Ds near and far goals.
Keywords: Canada, Death of Evidence, Dr. Katie Gibbs, Evidence for Democracy, E4D, science.
*Please see the footnotes throughout the interview, and bibliography and citation style listing after the interview.*
1. What is your background in science growing up and into the present?
I did my Ph.D. at the University of Ottawa in biology, but more specifically in conservation biology through looking at factors that affect endangered species. I did work on assessing legislation that aimed to protect endangered species, what aspects were working and what ones were not working.
2. You self-define as a “scientist, organizer, and advocate for science and evidence-based policies.” What does each title mean to you?
That’s a great question. The science is very much my background, my education. The thing is doing a Ph.D. in science is that it changes the way you think, even if you don’t go on to actually actively do science. You still always think like a scientist. I think there’s a lingering effect of thinking like a scientist — always being critical in a good way. Always trying to second-guess yourself, push yourself on really trying to look at evidence. The organizer, for me, that is really about organizing other people. It is about getting other people excited. For the past four years, E4D has really been to try and organize the scientific community. So, I have enjoyed work with them and letting scientists know there is nothing wrong in standing up for science. It doesn’t make you any less of a scientist. Advocate, it is really similar. It is about pushing on these issues: funding for science, muzzling of government scientists, and putting them in a more political way.
3. Your background extends into social and political campaigning. What kind of social and political campaigning?
Actually, I did most of my organizing and political background in volunteering for the Green party for many years. While I was doing my Ph.D., I did a lot of volunteering. I was the co-chair of the first youth wing of the Green Party. A lot of work building the youth wing of the party for many years. I was the President of my local riding association in Ottawa, and in the 2011 election, I took a break from my studies and worked in the central Green Party office in Ottawa in attempting to get Elizabeth May elected.
4. You founded Evidence for Democracy (E4D). You are its Executive Director. What responsibilities and tasks come with this position?
Pretty much everything, when you’re the Executive Director of a small organization, you end up with a lot on your plate, and a big diversity in the things that you do. There are the things that you’d expect such as doing media interviews, travelling and giving talks around the country — both things I enjoy. Monitoring communication, making sure that the tone of everything that goes out fits with our work. Emails that go to our supporters, what goes into social media, when we put out op-eds and having a hand in crafting those. Other things include fundraising, administration stuff such as bookkeeping and governance are all in order, organizing board meetings, and all of that stuff.
5. Why are public scientific organizations with the intent to inform public policy important to you?
Part of what happens during my Ph.D. was that I was very interested in science for the sake of informing policy, and grew more frustrated that most science is never used, much less even seen by policy makers; I always found that very frustrating. We have all of these crisis issues facing humanity, and I think that science and evidence, and research, is really our best way to find solutions to those problems. We have the research. The science is already done, but the policy makers do not actually use it. That seems very frustrating to me. I was interested in forming an organization that really was pushing for the role of science and evidence in public policy-making.
6. As a Ph.D. student, you were one of the lead organizers for the “Death of Evidence” rally. What took place there?
We had a mock funeral procession to commemorate the Death of Evidence in Canada. It was in response to a number of recent bills in motion that the Conservative government put through that really cut science funding and closed some really important science institutions and changed a bunch of pieces of science legislation. The science community was quite outraged over this. We want to demonstrate that outrage in a public and visible way. We had a mock funeral where we walked through downtown Ottawa from starting near campus here down to Parliament. Then, we had a bunch of speakers on the hill. It was a huge success. We were expecting a few hundred people. We ended up getting a few thousand.
7. In addition, on the Ph.D. front, how does this professional research background assist in work at E4D?
I think a lot of what we’re asking for is science. I would not have this same passion for science and its essential role if I didn’t have that science background. That instilled the value and appreciation for science in me. I think there is bit of a credibility factor there too. I work a lot on science issues. I do have that background and with the Ph.D. after my name that it shows I do know the science and do know what I’m talking about. It really influences the way that I think. I think that sometimes we’re more rigorous in some ways than other non-profit organizations and that because through a science base we have to be so, so, careful that everything we put out is based on facts and that we have the evidence to back up what we’re saying. That really comes from having a science background as well.
8. What are the purposes of E4D?
We are trying to create the public and political demand for evidence-based decision-making. We’re trying to mobilize the scientific community, get people who aren’t scientists to understand why these issues are important, and then try to harness and mobilize that support into political action.
9. You have been featured in numerous media outlets such as CBC, The Globe and Mail, The Hill Times, and the National Post, and others.,,,,,,,, What core message do you wish to get to the public?
(Laughs) It’s kind of hard to boil down to one key message. The key message is recognizing and appreciating that science is one of the strongest forces in our lives. It is science that keeps our food supply, our drinking water, safe. It is science that develops new medicines that your doctor can prescribe to you. It is science that creates the new technology including powering your smart phone. A lot of it is behind the scenes.
10. What responsibilities to the public, scientific, and public policy communities comes with this exposure as the central representative of E4D?
I think part of it is being really clear when I’m representing E4D and when I’m giving my personal opinion on something. It is about us making sure our work is evidence-based. That is really something that is a core value of ours.
11. What have been the observed impacts of E4D on policy and decision-making?
I think the biggest thing is looking at the last election period and, normally, there is almost no discussion of science during the election period. The biggest thing we were trying to impact during this last election was to influence the conversation and try to get Canadians and Candidates and the party leaders talking about science. I think we were hugely successful at that. We saw almost every outlet covering science issues. We saw so many candidates tweeting about science, mentioning science in the debates. We saw people going to the local debates and talking about science. We were really able to influence the conversation around the election. The policy changes we’re really going to see those with the new government. Part of the work that we did before the election was really trying to push for the parties to include some of our recommendations in their platforms, and the Liberals did take our recommendations, and made them part of their election promises.
12. What are its near and far goals?
The near goals are continuing our work at the federal government level, working to get a new communication policy that makes it clear that scientists can talk to the public and the media, and making sure that the long-form census gets re-instated, working with the government to create a Chief Science Officer position. Those are all of the short-term goals. I think the long-term goals are more about shifting the culture in Canada to one that values science and its role in public policy in our democracy.
Thank you for your time, Dr. Gibbs.
- [Parkland Institute]. (2013, December 13). No Science, No Evidence, No Truth, No Democracy — Katie Gibbs. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtnkVpL10tM.
- [Science for the People]. (n.d.). SCIENCE AND THE CANADIAN FEDERAL ELECTION #338. Retrieved from http://www.scienceforthepeople.ca/episodes/science-and-the-canadian-federal-election.
- [Voices-Voix]. (2016, April 1). Katie Gibbs — Silencing dissent in Canada 3/10. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_S2bBkp9Qo.
- Belliott, E. (2015, November 22). Ottawa residents shortlisted for Everyday Political Citizen of the Year. Retrieved from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-residents-shortlisted-for-everyday-political-citizen-of-the-year.
- (2015, May 19). Federal gov’t accused of muzzling Canadian scientists. Retrieved from http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=616173&playlistId=1.2379962&binId=1.815911&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1.
- Davison, J. (2012, July 9). UPDATED Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn ‘death of evidence’. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-rally-on-parliament-hill-to-mourn-death-of-evidence-1.1237215.
- Death of Evidence. (2016). Death of Evidence. Retrieved from http://www.deathofevidence.ca/.
- Evidence for Democracy. (2015). Evidence for Democracy. Retrieved from https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/.
- Gibbs, K.,Houben, A., Hutchings,, Mooers, A., Trudeau V.L., & Orihel, D. (2012, July).
‘The Death of Evidence’ in Canada: Scientists’ Own Words. Retrieved from http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/07/16/Death-of-Evidence/.
- Gibbs, K. & Westwood, A. (2015, August 25). We need a national debate on science. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/08/12/we-need-a-national-debate-on-science.html.
- (2016). Katie Gibbs. Retrieved from https://ca.linkedin.com/in/katie-gibbs-30997917.
- Sementiuk, I. (2015, October 9). Scientist urges straight talk on research ahead of federal vote. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/scientist-urges-straight-talk-on-research-ahead-of-federal-vote/article26764369/.
Appendix I: Footnotes
 Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy.
 PhD, University of Ottawa.
 Photographs courtesy of Dr. Katie Gibbs.
 Evidence for Democracy. (2015). Katie Gibbs. Retrieved from https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/en/users/katie-gibbs.
 Gibbs, K. & Westwood, A. (2015, August 25). We need a national debate on science. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/08/12/we-need-a-national-debate-on-science.html.
 Davison, J. (2012, July 9). UPDATED Scientists rally on Parliament Hill to mourn ‘death of evidence’. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/scientists-rally-on-parliament-hill-to-mourn-death-of-evidence-1.1237215.
 Sementiuk, I. (2015, October 9). Scientist urges straight talk on research ahead of federal vote. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/scientist-urges-straight-talk-on-research-ahead-of-federal-vote/article26764369/.
 Belliott, E. (2015, November 22). Ottawa residents shortlisted for Everyday Political Citizen of the Year. Retrieved from http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-residents-shortlisted-for-everyday-political-citizen-of-the-year.
 [Science for the People]. (n.d.). SCIENCE AND THE CANADIAN FEDERAL ELECTION #338. Retrieved from http://www.scienceforthepeople.ca/episodes/science-and-the-canadian-federal-election.
 Gibbs, K., Houben, A., Hutchings, J., Mooers, A., Trudeau V.L., & Orihel, D. (2012, July).
‘The Death of Evidence’ in Canada: Scientists’ Own Words. Retrieved from http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2012/07/16/Death-of-Evidence/.
 CTVNews. (2015, May 19). Federal gov’t accused of muzzling Canadian scientists. Retrieved from http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=616173&playlistId=1.2379962&binId=1.815911&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1.
Appendix II: Citation Style Listing
American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal [Online].April 2016; 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2016, April 1). An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs. Retrieved from www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs. In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A, April. 2016. <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs>.
Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2016. “An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A. www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 10.A (April 2016). www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A. Available from: <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs>.
Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2016, ‘An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs’, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 10.A., www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs.” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 10.A (2016):April. 2016. Web. <www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs>.
Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. An Interview with Dr. Katie Gibbs [Internet]. (2016, April); 10(A). Available from: www.in-sightjournal.com/an-interview-with-dr-katie-gibbs.
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