Federal government scientists play an important role in keeping Canadians safe and healthy by providing their expertise to both the public and decision-makers. When scientists communicate directly with the media, we all gain a better understanding of how science is being used for government decision-making, and are better able to hold our government accountable.
Informed public debate is the foundation of democracy. This means having the scientific information that we have paid for through our tax dollars available for discussion and allowing our publicly-funded scientists – whose salaries and research costs we pay – to communicate freely.
Over the past several years, Canadian scientists working in the federal government have experienced a substantial shift in the way they can communicate their research to the public and the media. Reports of widespread muzzling and delayed access to Canadian government scientists have been covered in prominent national and international media. Extensive coverage and concern prompted the Information Commissioner of Canada to pursue an investigation, currently ongoing, into the alleged muzzling of scientists.
A recent survey by Environics Research Group and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) finds similar sentiments among the scientists themselves, showing that 90% of federal scientists feel they are not able to speak freely about their research. Our recent analysis of media policies for science-based government departments finds that they do not support open and timely communication between scientists and journalists nor do they protect against political interference.
If you think that scientists should be able to speak freely, add your name to our petition calling for new government communication policies that promote openness and transparency – similar to policies that have been adopted in the United States and Britain.