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article imageCanada's Liberals back freedom of scientific expression

By Tim Sandle     Jun 20, 2019 in Science
An agreement has been reached between the Trudeau government and Canada's scientists, which cements the right to researchers speak to the media about science and their activities. This looks set to run for a further four years.
The issue at hand relates to the so-termed "scientific integrity" clause, which was pieced together via a 2017 collective agreement. This agreement captures the right of government scientists or engineers to speak about science and their research without being designated a departmental spokesperson. The agreement would apply to 15,000 people engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. With the clause agreed between unions leaders and state officials, it is now being presented to all union members for a ratification vote.
The conditions abound with the right to speak are such that the agreement would continue, even where the Liberals lost out in the in the October federal election. This is an important consideration, given the poor relations between many in the scientific community and the Conservative Party, especially in relation to freedom of speech. Here all requests to speak with a scientist from a journalist had to go via a special media control center and then, with subjects deemed too political (such as climate change), requests were invariably refused.
Discussing the agreement, Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada union said: "It was one of the most important things we've ever done," , in relation to renewing the scientific integrity clause.
The agreement adds to measures adopted by the Liberals to ensure the independence of scientists in the federal public sector. These include appointing a chief science officer, and putting into place policies and guidelines inside departments to allow "all scientific research, products and their communication are free from political, commercial and stakeholder interference."
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