Friday, 17 February 2012

Is Canadian government 'muzzling its scientists'?

Is Canadian government 'muzzling its scientists'? read and decide for yourself: ... "Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.
"The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won't be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship," he said.
"I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don't discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is."
The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The allegation of "muzzling" came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.
The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.
Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview."
And this is the story on CTV: "For almost three weeks after David Tarasick published findings about one of the largest ozone holes ever discovered above the Arctic, the federal scientist was barred from breathing a word about it to the media.
Kristi Miller was similarly gagged from granting interviews about her own research into a virus that might be killing British Columbia's wild sockeye salmon, despite going to print in the prestigious journal Science.
Such incidents aren't one-off occurrences, but instead represent a trend of "muzzling" policies being imposed on Canadian scientists by federal agencies under the Conservative government, a panel told their international peers Friday at a global science conference in Vancouver.
"It's pretty clear that for federal scientists, Ottawa decides now if the researchers can talk, what they can talk about and when they can say it," senior science journalist Margaret Munro, with Postmedia News, told a group gathered at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
"We're not talking about state secrets here."
The views were aired in tandem with the release of an open letter by a coalition of six science and communications organizations, who jointly called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "tear down the wall" that's been raised over the past four years separating scientists, journalists and the public.
"Despite promises that your majority government would follow principles of accountability and transparency, federal scientists in Canada are still not allowed to speak to reporters without the 'consent' of media relations officers," the letter says."
And this one on CBC: "Canadian government scientists are still being hampered from talking to the media about their taxpayer-funded research and that's bad news for the public, say groups representing both journalists and federal scientists.
The groups appealed to delegates at an international meeting of scientists in Vancouver on Friday, arguing that democracy depends on citizens having access to research so they can make informed decisions about government policy.
"If we're talking about policy that's informed by fact, if we're asking people to be critical thinkers, if we're asking people to engage in democratic process and to engage in democracy, it's incumbent of all of us that we make sure the process is transparent," said Kathryn O'Hara, a Carleton University journalism professor."
and this is the link to the full open letter to PM: 

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