Sunday, February 19, 2012

Scientists and journalists mount campaign against muzzling of Canadian federal scientists



In Vancouver at a meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science a campaign is being mounted by some Canadian scientists against attempts by the government to muzzle scientists working for the government.

Both journalists and scientists have joined the campaign. The group argues that citizens have a right to be informed about research that they as taxpayer's fund. It is essential they claim for citizens to make informed decisions about government policy.

The meeting featured a panel called: "Unmuzzling government scientists: How to re-open the discourse" The panel is part of a campaign by several groups including:Association des communicateurs scientifiques du Qu├ębec, the Association science et bien commun, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Canadian Science Writers' Association, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canadaand the World Federation of Science Journalists.

For its part the Canadian federal government claims that its scientists have access to the media. However, Gary Goodyear who is the minister of state for science and technology refused to attend the meeting as did all other government representatives invited to attend.

A veteran science journalist Margaret Munro said that for much of her career it had been easy to get access to federal scientists but of late the situation has changed dramatically. Government control she said has been taken to incredible extremes.

Federal scientists face layers upon layers of approval sometimes even up to the Privy Council Office. In the U.S. this would be equivalent to having to get permission from the WHite House. Approved interviews need to be taped and often approval is not given before deadlines or at all. A new policy demands that a department should speak with a single voice on issues. Obviously minority or critical opinions are simply vetted out of the system.

In the U.S. the situation has improved somewhat compared with that under the George W. Bush administration. For more detail see this article.

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