These results provide additional evidence for concerns about the muzzling of federal scientists, and highlight the need for new less restrictive communication policies.
A report released today by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) based on a survey of federal scientists indicates that many believe censoring and suppression of publicly-funded science is widespread. These results provide additional evidence for concerns about the muzzling of federal scientists, and highlight the need for new less restrictive communication policies.
The survey found that 90% of respondents feel they are not allowed to speak freely to the media about their research and over one-third (37%) had been prevented in the past five years from responding to questions from the public and media.
“This survey provides compelling evidence that government scientists in Canada are being censored and suppressed.” said Dr. Katie Gibbs, Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy. “It shows that media reports of muzzling over the past few years are not simply isolated incidents, but reflect a systemic problem.”
Scientists and journalists have been raising the alarm regarding the silencing of government scientists in Canada since late 2007. A number of organizations representing scientists and science journalists have signed a letter to Prime Minister Harper requesting that government scientists be unmuzzled, while scientists have participated in more than a dozen large rallies across the country. The prestigious international science journal Nature published an editorial criticizing Canada’s muzzling of scientists and just last month the New York Times criticized the “silencing” of Canadian scientists in a lead editorial.
Evidence for Democracy has launched “Science: Uncensored”: a campaign encouraging the federal government to develop and implement a policy that explicitly allows federal scientists to freely and openly communicate their science with the general public (similar policies have been adopted in the United States and Britain). More information and a timeline of muzzling incidents in Canada can be found at www.scienceuncensored.ca.
“While it is, perhaps, reasonable that governments discourage federal scientists from commenting on government policy” said Dr. Scott Findlay, Professor of Biology at the University of Ottawa, “it is not reasonable that governments prevent or impede scientists from making their scientific results freely and openly available to other scientists, the media and the general public. After all, it’s our tax dollars that have paid for it.”
For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Dr. Katie Gibbs