Today (Oct. 21, 2013) during opening day of the Science and Society 2013 symposium (most recently mentioned in my Oct. 8, 2013 posting), one of the symposium sponsors, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) has released a survey of thousands of Canadian federal scientists answering questions about government science communication policy or the ‘government muzzle’ as it’s sometimes called (from the Oct. 21, 2013 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] news item),
Hundreds of federal scientists responding to a survey said they had been asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and thousands said they had been prevented from speaking to the media. [emphasis mine]
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which commissioned the survey from Environics Research “to gauge the scale and impact of ‘muzzling’ and political interference among federal scientists,” released the results Monday at a news conference.
The union sent invitations to 15,398 federal scientists in June, asking them to participate in the survey. More than 4,000 took part. [emphasis mine]
PIPSC represents 60,000 public servants across the country, including 20,000 scientists, in federal departments and agencies, including scientists involved in food and consumer product safety and environmental monitoring.
Weirdly, the news item announces hundreds of scientists responded to follow up later stating that a number exceeding 4000 took part.
The Oct. 21, 2013 PIPSC news release about the survey which is included in a report (The Big Chill) can be found on the Live-PR website,
The survey, the findings of which are included in a new report titled The Big Chill, is the first extensive effort to gauge the scale and impact of “muzzling” and political interference among federal scientists since the Harper government introduced communications policies requiring them to seek approval before being interviewed by journalists. Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault is currently conducting her own investigation of the policies, which have been widely criticized for silencing scientists, suppressing information critical or contradictory of government policy, and delaying timely, vital information to the media and public.
In particular, the survey also found that nearly one-quarter (24%) of respondents had been directly asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and that over one-third (37%) had been prevented in the past five years from responding to questions from the public and media.
In addition, the survey found that nearly three out of every four federal scientists (74%) believe the sharing of scientific findings has become too restricted in the past five years and that nearly the same number (71%) believe political interference has compromised Canada’s ability to develop policy, law and programs based on scientific evidence. According to the survey, nearly half (48%) are aware of actual cases in which their department or agency suppressed information, leading to incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading impressions by the public, industry and/or other government officials.
“Federal scientists are facing a climate of fear,” says PIPSC president Gary Corbett, “- a chill brought on by government policies that serve no one’s interests, least of all those of the Canadian public. The safety of our food, air, water, of hundreds of consumer and industrial products, and our environment depends on the ability of federal scientists to provide complete, unbiased, timely and accurate information to Canadians. Current policies must change to ensure these objectives are met.”
For anyone interested in seeing the survey and report, you can download it from PIPSC’s The Big Chill webpage.
In this context, the Science and Society 2013 symposium (S&S 2013) being held in Ottawa (site of the PIPSC [an S&S 2013 sponsor] Oct. 21, 2013news conference), is livestreaming a few events for the public (ones at 7 pm) and those intended for symposium attendees only. From an Oct. 18, 2013 announcement about the S&S 2013 live events,
WATCH THESE LIVE ONLINE!
MONDAY OCT. 21, 7PM ET
Transformations in the Relations between Science, Policy and Citizens
Yves Gingras, Canada Research Chair in History and Sociology of Science, UQAM
TUESDAY OCT. 22, 9:15AM ET
Science and Its Publics: Dependence, Disenchantment, and Deliverance
Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School
TUESDAY OCT. 22, 1PM ET
Science, Values and Democracy
Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, Waterloo
Carla Fehr, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy, Waterloo
WEDNESDAY Oct. 23, 1PM ET
Mary Anne Moser, Banff Centre
WEDNESDAY Oct. 23, 5:30PM ET
Key decision-makers discuss the symposium results
Scott Findley, Evidence for Democracy
Pat Mooney, ETC Group
Louise Vandelac, UQAM
Denise Amyot, Association of Canadian Community Colleges
Apparently, you can go here to click through to the events being livestreamed. (It looks like I grumbled too soon about the public not being allowed to attend any of the symposium talks outside the evening events specifically designated for the public. Thank you!)