Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Let Federal Scientists Speak Freely

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Let Federal Scientists Speak Freely

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Let federal scientists speak freely


An editorial from the Toronto Star, published May 19:

Casting an eye over the latest contract demands by Canada's federally employed scientists and researchers, it's tempting to check the calendar. Is this 2015 - or 1615?

The 55,000 members of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada are demanding provisions that would allow scientists to -- wait for it! -- speak openly about their work, publish results without fear of censorship and travel abroad to collaborate with peers.

More disturbingly, they feel the need to press for guarantees that would protect government researchers from being coerced to alter their data and to prohibit policy-makers from knowingly misinterpreting scientists' findings.

On Tuesday, union members rallied in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver to protest "the muzzling of Canada's public scientists and partisan interference in the development of public science."

They shouldn't have to demonstrate for these rights -- never mind negotiate for them -- in a democracy. But the Harper government's controls on scientific debate and research are growing tighter by the day.

How bad is it?

In the past couple of years the New York Times, Nature magazine, the Guardian and The Economist have all written critical articles pleading for our scientists to be set free.

Federal Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is investigating complaints that federal scientists have been muzzled by the government.

A survey from Environics Research last year found that 91 per cent of government scientists feel they cannot share their expertise with the media without facing censure from their bosses.

Environics was not alone in its findings. Last year a survey from the science advocacy group Evidence for Democracy also found that federal policies do not support open communication between scientists and the public. …

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