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article imageCanadians plead with government to 'free' scientists

By Tucker Cummings     Mar 9, 2012 in Science
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under fire from the scientific community after the publication of an editorial in the science journal Nature.
The editorial argues that "Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers....Nature's news reporters, who have an obvious interest in access to scientific information and expert opinion, have experienced directly the cumbersome approval process that stalls or prevents meaningful contact with Canada's publicly funded scientists."
The Canadian Science Writers' Association is in agreement with Nature. Last month, the organization wrote to the Prime Minster's office, stating "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 Canadian Science Writers' Association is calling for the Harper Administration to "implement a policy of transparent and timely communication." Across the border, the United States recently implemented such a policy for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), encouraging scientists to speak directly with the press, provided they make it clear any opinions expressed are their own.
Also rallying to the side of free communication for publicly funded scientists is the Globe and Mail. In an editorial published this week, the organization argued that Canada will keep getting "scooped" by foreign media if nothing changes. The free communication between scientists and journalists is, in their words, "the essence of the scientific process, in which experts exchange information and hold their work up for scrutiny."
Tech news website TechDirt had perhaps the most scathing indictment of the current policy, concluding their report by stating, "To censor scientists in this way neuters them and turns them into glorified copywriters...This is a betrayal of Canadian citizens...We must call on the government to put scientists in their proper role: as shapers of the political agenda, not slaves to it. Until that happens, Canada bears the shame of being a country without public science."
If you wish to contact Stephen Harper and protest the current policies, click here for a listing of all his contact information.
More about Canada, Science, Censorship, Nature, Stephen Harper
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