Interview with Bad Science Watch’s Executive Director

 

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Michael Kruse is an advanced-care paramedic in York Region, just north of Toronto, Ontario. A theatrical lighting designer as well, he re-trained in 2005 as an EMT-Paramedic Specialist at the University of Iowa and as an advanced care paramedic at Durham College. Michael is currently enrolled at the University of Toronto working towards an undergraduate degree in physiology and the history and philosophy of science.

Michael has been active in the science advocacy community for 7 years and is committed to a compassionate defense of science for the betterment of all Canadians.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, how did you get involved in the skeptic movement in science in general?

Michael Kruse: So, myself, I discovered the skeptic movement so many years ago. Now, 20 years ago, I was working as a senior technician. While I was running the show, relaxing, I never heard about this in high school.

So, I have never had exposure to it and the skeptical movement. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I am participating in the social group of skepticism, the social movement. When I went to camp in Las Vegas, it was amazing.

I started to become more involved in skepticism and the skeptical movement. They spoke to me from the social point of view. I was interested in how we can make society better by using the precepts of science and venturing the world.

I have been involved after that, after Center for Inquiry Canada as a coach fair of the community skepticism. So, I was there through Center for Inquiry Canada’s reorganization in late 2000. I saw myself wanting more professional science advocacy, as a role.

So, along with a former CSI member, Jamie Williams who was the secretary director, we made up a recommendation, which we mention as a departure from us beyond the Skeptical Movement. In a way, it is to try to redefine what the values we held as skeptical in a large community.

There were a couple things that came up again. That was when we were talking to people who are not familiar with the movement, which was difficult to have that discussion about what is a sceptic. There are a lot of different definitions that people have now. There are different cultural norms around that, so it was problematic.

Advocacy people knew there was a larger community. I’ll have to find kids in the world and the skeptical community, but that were often a part of it. We were interested to start becoming a part of that community.

So, that’s how we started. I have five more lessons left in the social movement towards skepticism. It sticks to my values around internal issues, especially in social justice. That I didn’t really value. Now, it’s for me to call on myself and what we do at times with science advocacy.

That seems to be useful and more successful for me, certainly.

Jacobsen: What are some of larger targeted objectives of Bad Science Watch in terms of constructive education for the public?

Kruse: So, we had couple of things that we want to do. One was make real change in society. We had tried multiple times through skeptical blogging. We created a new blog for that back in 2000.  Education was a long game.

It’s very difficult to measure. In which case, these structures or community programs tend to be people involved who are already interested and support the subject. When it comes to making social change education, it is difficult to measure the outcome.

As such, you will find it difficult to measure, so we decided that if we want to make real change to society that we should have a more government-based organization. One that would be educating the public.

There are a lot of people doing that work already. There are many up and coming scientists who are trying to let the public understand science and communicate with the public that way. That was a movement that we wanted to part of because it has its own mandate.

We were more concerned about making change right now. The problems society is dealing with at the political level, so that is why it became a government facing organization. That it is essential that there is communication as an organization with the government.

Where our values that we hold in come to the government of Canada, this can be done through a petition of the government. We decide to focus our effort on the government. We can talk to the public and the media, obviously.

That is a way of finding common ground or finding support. You need that to start to make change in the government, but we were talking directly to the government. That’s why early on we got projects focused around the problems.

If the government, the Public Health Association of Canada, and other various organizations are informing the public, we consider involvement with the government is good. We want scientifically backed products on the shelves and others off.  

So, that involvement with the government may be talking to a Member of Parliament, talking to our supporters to encourage them to talk to the government, and have an organization that is made for them, e.g. bad Science Watch.

Because the federal government needs organizations devoted to having a structure for evaluating evidence for products given to the public.

Jacobsen: How can people – if they want to get involved – get involved, whether through donations or volunteering, expertise or writing? Wat are some of the benefits of helping?

Kruse: So, there are several different ways. We have a core membership, which is made up of volunteers with who have spent a significant amount of time as board members or as long-term volunteers.

There were members chosen by the board to identify whether people want to have a more in-depth knowledge of how the organization moves forward. But in the organization, everyone is a volunteer.

Nobody gets paid, which is helpful because that allows us to run a budget. However, if you want to get involved, there are several ways. First, obviously, we work on a budget: donations to make commission can help us.

So, we can go forward to pay for the posting of our communication projects and ensuring all those concepts that make the non-profit go forward. Ultimately, the organization, we will continue to grow the organization having a part-time executive director.

That’s something that we have because of the advocacy role the organization. It has been a bit difficult for us. We have been opening our budget. We are looking to adopt some principles that are more responsive to our members.

This is so that the donors can rest assured the donations are going towards the company.

If you want to volunteer, you can contact the volunteer coordinator. The email address and website are good starts. We accept text messages. We have a couple projects on the way right now. The one that is across the country is the marketing of national health products.

That is underway. Right now, we are investigating the webpage marketing in Canada. It will help answer some of the questions, whether the sellers are acquiring and showing the Health Canada license on these products.

So that one is on its way. We can always use more evaluators in the next month. We are probably going to be coming up with running a file report, but this is a pile of studies. So, the next step is expansion into a more comprehensive look at a lot of the products in Canada.

So, if you want to get involved, we are always looking for people to do some simple stuff around the organization such as communication and newsletters and web things. Even if they can email our volunteer coordinator, or if they help with connecting other people or organizations that can help Bad Science Watch.

Jacobsen: Thank you very much for your time, Michael.

Kruse: Okay, you are welcome, thank you very much.

Image Credit: Bad Science Watch.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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