Unmuzzling Government Scientists: How To Re-Open the Discourse

Friday, February 17, 2012: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Room 201 (VCC West Building)
Across Canada, journalists are being denied access to publicly funded scientists and the research community is frustrated with the way government scientists are being muzzled. Some observe that it is part of a trend that has seen the Canadian government tighten control over how and when federal scientists interact with the media. As a result, media inquiries are delayed, and scientists are less present in coverage of research in Canada. In 2008, Environment Canada ordered its scientists to refer all media queries to Ottawa, where communications officers and strategists would decide if the scientist could respond and help craft "approved media lines". Stories written for the CBC, Postmedia news, the journal Nature and others have then revealed how these communication restrictions had spread to other government departments. And the situation is somewhat similar in the United States. A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review details how restrictive practices established by George W. Bush’s administration still hold under the current government. This panel will be an occasion to better understand the friction between the media and the governments. Are the tightened communication strategies symptomatic of a worldwide trend in public and private sectors? How obstruction in communications with scientists compromise science research progression and undermine democracy? And in the end, what can be done to improve the situation?
Binh An Vu Van, Association des Communicateurs Scientifiques (ACS)
Kathryn O'Hara, Carleton University
Margaret Munro, Postmedia News
The Muzzling of Canada's Federal Scientists
Francesca Grifo, Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Sciences
Communication Policies: From Bush to Obama
Andrew Weaver, University of Victoria
Climate Science Communication in Canada
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