Tag Archives: Scientific Canadian

2012 Canadian science blog roundup and some thoughts on a Canadian science blog network

This is my 3rd annual roundup of Canadian science blogs and the science blogging scene in Canada seems to be getting more lively (see my Dec. 31, 2010 posting and Dec. 29, 2011 posting to compare).

As I did last year, I will start with

Goodbyes

Don’t leave Canada appears to be gone as there hasn’t been posting there since May 4, 2011. I’m sorry to see it go as Rob Annan provided thoughtful commentary on science policy on a regular basis for years. Thank you, Rob. (BTW, he’s now the director of policy, research and evaluation at MITACS.)

Cool Science, John McKay’s blog has been shut down as of Oct. 24, 2012,

Hi everyone. This will mark the final post of the CoolScience.ca site and it will be quietly taken offline in November. I will also be closing down the Twitter and Facebook accounts and moving everything over to my professional accounts that are all focused on communicating science, technology, engineering and medicine.

The Dark Matter science blog by Tom Spears, which I reluctantly (as it was a ‘newspaper blog’ from the Ottawa Citizen)included last year  has since disappeared as has NeuroDojo, a blog written by a Canadian scientist in Texas.

Goodbye ish

Marc Leger’s Atoms and Numbers blog’s latest posting is dated Oct. 23, 2012 but the pattern here seems similar to Marie-Claire’s (see the next one) where the posting is erratic but relatively regular (once or twice per month) until October of this year.

Marie-Claire Shanahan is posting less frequently on her Boundary Vision blog with the last posting there on Oct. 9, 2012.

The Bubble Chamber blog from the University of Toronto’s Science Policy Work Group seems to be fading away with only one posting for 2012, Reply to Wayne Myrvold on the Higgs Boson.

Colin Schulz’s CMBR blog hasn’t had a new posting since July 13, 2012’s 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Canada. In any event, it looks like the blog is no longer primarily focused on science.

The Exponential Book blog by Massimo Boninsegni features an Oct. 24, 2012 posting and a similar posting pattern to Marie-Claire & Marc.

exposure/effect which was new last year has gone into a fairly lengthy hiatus as per its last post in January 30, 2012 posting.

Theoretical biologist, Mario Pineda-Krch of Mario’s Entangled Bank blog is also taking a lengthy hiatus as the last posting on that blog was June 11, 2012.

Nicole Arbour’s Canadian science blog for the UK High Commission in Ottawa hasn’t featured a posting since Oct. 15, 2012’s The Power of We: Adapting to climate change.

Gregor Wolbring’s Nano and Nano- Bio, Info, Cogno, Neuro, Synbio, Geo, Chem… features an Aug. 4, 2012 posting which links to one of his nano articles, (Nanoscale Science and Technology and People with Disabilities in Asia: An Ability Expectation Analysis) published elsewhere.

Jeff Sharom’s Science Canada blog highlights links to editorials and articles on Canadian science policy but doesn’t seem to feature original writing by Sharom or anyone else, consequently, it functions more as a reader/aggregator than a blog.

The Black Hole blog which was always more focused on prospect for Canadian science graduates than Canadian science, hence always a bit of a stretch for inclusion here, has moved to the University Affairs website where it focuses more exclusively on the Canadian academic scene with posts such as this, Free journal access for postdocs in between positions  from Dec. 12, 2012.

Returning to the roundup:

John Dupuis’ Confessions of a Science Librarian whose Dec. 26, 2012 posting, Best Science (Fiction) Books 2012: io9 seems timely for anyone taking a break at this time of year and looking for some reading material.

Daniel Lemire’s blog is known simply as Daniel Lemire. He’s a computer scientist in Montréal who writes one of the more technical blogs I’ve come across and his focus seems to be databases although his Dec. 10, 2012 posting covers the topic of how to get things accomplished when you’re already busy.

Dave Ng, a professor with the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia, is a very active science communicator who maintain the Popperfont blog. The latest posting (Dec. 24, 2012) features Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 24.

Eric Michael Johnson continues with his The Primate Diaries blog on the Scientific American blog network. His Dec. 6, 2012 posting is a reposted article but he has kept up a regular (once per month, more or less) posting schedule,

Author’s Note: The following originally appeared at ScienceBlogs.com and was subsequently a finalist in the 3 Quarks Daily Science Prize judged by Richard Dawkins. Fairness is the basis of the social contract. As citizens we expect that when we contribute our fair share we should receive our just reward. When social benefits are handed out …

Rosie Redfield is keeping with both her blogs, RRTeaching (latest posting, Dec. 6, 2012) and RRResearch (Nov. 17, 2012).

Sci/Why is a science blog being written by Canadian children’s writers who discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why?

Mathematician Nassif Ghoussoub’s Piece of Mind blog continues to feature incisive writing about science, science funding, policy and academe.

Canadian science writer Heather Pringle continues to post on the The Last Word on Nothing, a blog shared collectively by a number of well known science writers. Her next posting is scheduled for Jan. 3, 2013, according to the notice on the blog.

A little off my usual beat but I included these last year as they do write about science albeit medical and/or health science:

Susan Baxter’s blog Curmudgeon’s Corner features her insights into various medical matters, for example there’s her Dec. 1, 2012 posting on stress, the immune system, and the French antipathy towards capitalism.

Peter Janiszewski and Travis Saunders co-own two different blogs, Obesity Panacea, which is part of the PLoS (Public Library of Science) blogs network, and Science of Blogging which features very occasional posting but it’s worth a look for nuggets like this Oct. 12, 2012 (?) posting on social media for scientists.

After posting the 2011 roundup,

I had a number of suggestions for more Canadian science blogs such as these four who are part of the Scientific American SA) blogging network (in common with Eric Michael Johnson),

Dr. Carin Bondar posts on the SA blog, PsiVid, along with Joanne Manaster. There’s more than one Canadian science blogger who co-writes a blog. This one is self-described as, A cross section of science on the cyberscreen.

Glendon Mellow, a professional science illustrator,  posts on The Flying Trilobite (his own blog) and Symbiartic: the art of science and the science of art, an SA blog he shares with Kalliopi Monoyios.

Larry Moran, a biochemist at the University of Toronto, posts on science and anything else that tickles his fancy on his Sandwalk blog.

Eva Amsen who posts on a number of blogs including the NODE; the community site for developmental biologists  (which she also manages) but the best place to find a listing of her many blogs and interests is at easternblot.net, where she includes this self-description on the About page,

Online Projects

  • Musicians and Scientists – Why are so many people involved in both music and science? I’m on a mission to find out.
  • the NodeMy day job is managing a community site for developmental biologists around the world. The site is used by equal numbers of postdocs, PhD students, and lab heads.
  • SciBarCamp/SciBarCamb – I co-instigated SciBarCamp, an unconference for scientists, in Toronto in 2008. Since then I have co-organized five similar events in three countries, and have advised others on how to run science unconferences.
  • You Learn Something New Every Day – a Tumblr site that automatically aggregates tweets with the hashtag #ylsned, and Flickr photos tagged ylsned, to collect the interesting bits of trivia that people come across on a daily basis.
  • Lab Waste – During my last months in the lab as a PhD student, I made a mini-documentary (using CC-licensed materials) about the excessive amount of disposable plastics used in research labs. It screened in 2009 in the “Quirky Shorts” program of the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York.
  • Expression Patterns – In 2007 I was invited to blog on Nature Network. The complete archives from 2007-2012 are now on this site.
  • easternblot.net – Confusingly, my other science blog was named after this entire domain. It ran from 2005 to 2010, and can be found at science.easternblot.net

I believe Amsen is Canadian and working in the UK but if anyone could confirm, I would be much relieved.

Someone, who according to their About page prefers to remain anonymous but lives in Victoria, BC, and posts (somewhat irregularly, the last posting is dated Nov. 10, 2012) on The Olive Ridley Crawl,

I am an environmental scientist blogging about environmental and development issues that interest me. I prefer to be anonymous(e) because I work with some of the companies I may talk about and I want to avoid conflict of interest issues at work. This gets tricky because I am at the periphery of a lot of events happening in the world of my greatest expertise, persistent organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting compounds, their effects on health and the policy fights around chemicals, their use the controversies! So, I’ve reluctantly moved away from writing about what I know most about, which means this blog suffers severely. I still soldier on, though!

I was born, and grew up in India, so I am interested in all things South Asian and tend to view most all Western government and Western institution actions through a colonialist scratched lens! I am also becoming much more active about my feminism, so who knows what that will do to this blog. I have been meaning to write a monstrous essay about women, the environment and justice, but that’s a task!

I used to live in Chapel Hill, NC with a partner of long vintage (the partnership, that is, not her!) and a crazy cat who thinks he’s a dog. We moved to Victoria, BC in 2008 and I’ve been busy learning about Canadian policy, enjoying this most beautiful town I live in.

Why Olive Ridley? Well, the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys Olivacea) nests on the coasts of Madras, India and I got my start in the wonderful world of conservation working on the Olive Ridley with the Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network. So, I do have fond memories for this beautiful creature. And yes, as my dear partner reminds me, I did meet her on the beach when I was doing this work.

Agence Science-Presse (based in Québec and headed by Pascal Lapointe) features three blogs of its own:

Blogue ta science : les billets dédiés aux jeunes.

Discutez avec notre expert : avez-vous suivi notre enquête CSI ?

Autour des Blogues : les actualités de nos blogueurs et de la communauté.

There’s also a regular podcast under the Je vote pour la science banner.

genegeek appears to be Canadian (it has a domain in Canada) but the blog owner doesn’t really identify herself (there’s a photo) on the About page but no name and no biographical details. I did receive a tweet last year about genegeek from C. Anderson who I imagine is the blog owner.

There’s also the Canadian BioTechnologist2.0 blog, which is sponsored by Bio-Rad Canada and is written by an employee.

These next ones were added later in the year:

Chuck Black writes two blogs as he noted in June 2012,

I write two blogs which, while they focus more on space than science, do possess strong science components and overlap with some of the other blogs here.

They are: Commercial Space and Space Conference News.

Andy Park also came to my attention in June 2012. He writes the  It’s the Ecology, Stupid! blog.

Something About Science is a blog I featured in an Aug. 17, 2012 posting and I’m glad to see blogger, Lynn K, is still blogging.

New to the roundup in 2012:

SSChow, Sarah Chow’s blog, focuses on science events in Vancouver (Canada) and science events at the University of British Columbia and miscellaneous matters pertinent to her many science communication efforts.

The Canadian federal government seems to be trying its hand at science blogging with the Science.gc.ca Blogs (http://www.science.gc.ca/Blogs-WSE6EBB690-1_En.htm). An anemic effort given that boasts a total of six (or perhaps it’s five) posting in two or three years.

The Canadian Science Writers Association (CSWA) currently features a blog roll of its members’ blogs. This is a new initiative from the association and one I’m glad to see.  Here’s the list (from the CSWA member blog page),

Anne Steinø (Research Through the Eyes of a Biochemist)
Arielle Duhame-Ross (Salamander Hours)
Bob McDonald (I’m choking on this one since it’s a CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] blog for its Quirks and Quarks science pr0gram)
Cadell Last (The Ratchet)
Edward Willett
Elizabeth Howell (she seems to be blogging again and the easiest way for me to get to her postings was to click on the Archives link [I clicked on December 2012 to get the latest] after doing that I realized that the images on the page link to postings)
Heather Maughan
Justin Joschko
Kimberly Gerson (Endless Forms Most Beautiful)
Mark Green (a CSWA member, he was born and educated in the US where he lives and works; ordinarily I would not include him, even with his  CSWA membership status,  but he writes a monthly science column for a Cape Breton newspaper, which has made me pause)
Pamela Lincez (For the Love of Science)
Sarah Boon (Watershed Moments)
Susan Eaton (she seems to be reposting articles written [presumably by her] for the AAPG [American Association of Petroleum Geologists] Explorer and other organizations in her blog]

Barry Shell’s site (listed as a CSWA member blog) doesn’t match my admittedly foggy notion of a blog. It seems more of an all round Canadian science resource featuring profiles of Canadian scientists, a regularly updated news archive, and more. Science.ca is extraordinary and I’m thankful to have finally stumbled across it but it doesn’t feature dated posts in common with the other blogs listed here, even the most commercial ones.

Tyler Irving (I had no idea he had his own blog when I mentioned him in my Sept. 25, 2012 posting about Canadian chemists and the Canadian Chemical Institute’s publications) posts at the Scientific Canadian.

I choke again, as I do when mentioning blogs that are corporate media blogs, but in the interest of being as complete as possible Julia Belluz writes the Scien-ish blog about health for MacLean’s magazine.

Genome Alberta hosts a couple of blogs: Genomics and Livestock News & Views.

Occam’s Typewriter is an informal network of science bloggers two of whom are Canadian:

Cath Ennis (VWXYNot?) and Richard Wintle (Adventures in Wonderland). Note: The Guardian Science Blogs network seems to have some sort of relationship with Occam’s Typewriter as you will see postings from the Occam’s network featured as part of Occam’s Corner on the Guardian website.

My last blogger in this posting is James Colliander from the University of  Toronto’s Mathematics Department. He and Nassif (Piece of Mind blog mentioned previously) seem to share a similar interest in science policy and funding issues.

ETA Jan.2.13: This is a social science oriented blog maintained by a SSHRC- (Social Science and Humanities Research Council) funded network cluster called the Situating Science Cluster and the blog’s official name is: Cluster Blog. This is where you go to find out about Science and Technology Studies (STS) and History of Science Studies, etc. and events associated with those studies.

I probably should have started with this definition of a Canadian blogger, from the Wikipedia entry,

A Canadian blogger is the author of a weblog who lives in Canada, has Canadian citizenship, or writes primarily on Canadian subjects. One could also be considered a Canadian blogger if one has a significant Canadian connection, though this is debatable.

Given how lively the Canadian science blogging scene has become, I’m not sure I can continue with these roundups as they take more time each year.  At the very least, I’ll need to define the term Canadian Science blogger, in the hope of reducing the workload,  if I decide to continue after this year.

There’s a rather interesting Nov. 26, 2012 article by Stephanie Taylor for McGill Daily about the Canadian public’s science awareness and a dearth of Canadian science communication,

Much of the science media that Canadians consume and have access to is either American or British: both nations have a robust, highly visible science media sector. While most Canadians wouldn’t look primarily to American journalism for political news and analysis, science doesn’t have the same inherent national boundaries that politics does. While the laws of physics don’t change depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, there are scientific endeavours that are important to Canadians but have little importance to other nations. It’s unlikely that a British researcher would investigate the state of the Canadian cod fishery, or that the British press would cover it, but that research is critical to a substantial number of Canadians’ livelihoods.

On the other hand, as Canadian traditional media struggles to consistently cover science news, there’s been an explosion of scientists of all stripes doing a lot of the necessary big picture, broad context, critical analysis on the internet. The lack of space restrictions and accessibility of the internet (it’s much easier to start a blog than try to break in to traditional media) mean that two of the major barriers to complex discussion of science in the media are gone. Blogs struggle to have the same reach as newspapers and traditional media, though, and many of the most successful science blogs are under the online umbrella of mainstream outlets like Scientific American and Discover. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly, there is currently no Canadian science blog network like this. [emphasis mine]

Yes, let’s create a Canadian science blog network. I having been talking to various individuals about this over the last year (2012) and while there’s interest, someone offered to help and then changed their mind. Plus, I was hoping to persuade the the Canadian Science Writers Association to take it on but I think they were too far advanced in their planning for a member’s network to consider something more generalized (and far more expensive). So, if anyone out there has ideas about how to do this, please do comment and perhaps we can get something launched in 2013.

Electrochromic windows and censorship/communication deficiencies

It was an unexpected response to a series of follow-up questions about electrochromic windows at the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) that haz given me the excuse to discuss censorship and science in Canada.

I’ll start with the windows. I participated in a pre-AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 2012 annual meeting event in February held by the University of British Columbia. The event was a tour of UBC’s relatively new (opened Nov. 2011) CIRS facility. It was very popular and there were at least 40 of us present.Here’s a little more information from the CIRS About page,

CIRS activities have a regional focus and a global reach. Located on the UBC campus in Vancouver, British Columbia, CIRS is a hub of excellence around green design and building operations practices. We bring thought leaders from UBC and our region together to create and test solutions that work at home, and then share our experiences and knowledge with the public and professionals from across our province and around the world. [emphasis mine] A typical day at CIRS generates many interesting conversations and ideas.

Documenting our activities and communicating our lessons and successes are priorities at CIRS.

We use this website as our primary communication vehicle, showcasing the building design and construction process and the exciting research underway at CIRS. Through this website we aim to build a community of professional and interested people who can connect, share ideas and further accelerate sustainability. [emphasis mine]

We also connect with individuals face-to-face as much as possible through symposiums, workshops, building tours and other events held in the interactive spaces at CIRS.

During the course of the tour there was some discussion about community-building, outreach, etc. and we were informed that the facility is testing a couple of electrochromic windows, amongst other things. Later, I did ask for more information about the electrochromic windows at CIRS and was promptly rewarded with this from Ann L. Campbell,

My colleague Brian Lin passed along your question regarding the electrochromic windows at UBC. Here is the response I received from Alberto Cayuela, the Associate Director of CIRS. He kindly answered my question (what are these windows?) as well as your question regarding their use at CIRS:

We have a limited number of electrochromic windows in the building (fourth floor southwest corner). We are planning to do some research on them in partnership with BC Hydro. Essentially this technology enables the glass to darken or light when a low-voltage electric current is applied to the glass. There are energy benefits associated with blocking or letting heat through windows depending on the time of the year and desired outcome.

I invite you to join the community at www.cirs.ubc.ca where we will post research projects and results as they are undertaken.

The answer excited my curiosity since I’ve written about ‘smart’ windows a number of times, most recently in a Sept. 16, 2011 posting about Boris Lamontagne’s work at the Canada National Research Council and in a Sept. 7, 2011 posting about WANDA, the nanocrystal robot and its role in one of the US Dept. of Energy’s projects with electrochromic windows so I sent back more questions.

After waiting two weeks for a reply, I resent the questions and got a response this morning,

Dear Maryse,

I’m sorry that we are not going to be able to help you with your questions right now. There is no other information available beyond what I sent previously and what is in the online CIRS Technical Manual (and I know that is not much).

Good luck with your blog. I’m sorry we are not able to contribute.

Warm regards,

Ann

Ann L. Campbell
Manager of Communications
UBC Sustainability Initiative

They aren’t able to answer these questions, eh? From my Feb. 21 and March 6, 2012 email request:

Perhaps you could direct me to someone who could answer more specific questions about these windows for publication in my blog. It’s a topic I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions and am hugely excited to hear about this research. Here are the questions:

Who is answering these questions? (Perhaps include a brief bio.?)

Are these windows both electrochromic & photochromic?

Where did you get these windows from and what specific technology do they demonstrate? Could you describe that technology in more detail? e.g. Switch Materials, a local company offers electrochromic and photochromic films for windows or Boris Lamontagne at the NRC has a project with glass that includes curling electrodes, etc.

Exactly how big are these electrochromic windows and what percentage of the windows in the CIRS are electrochromic?

What kind of research are you doing with regard to these windows? Are you measuring their effectiveness, their aesthetic impact, the quality of light and its impact on wellbeing, etc.?

How many pilot programmes for electrochromic/photochromic windows are there in BC? (Is the one at CIRS the only one?)

Is BC Hydro hoping to encourage consumer use of these windows? Are they hoping this is the wave of the future?

I’m not sure why they weren’t willing answer at least a few of these questions, which seem relatively unexceptional, or even supply a reason of some kind for the failure to share information. It seems odd given their mandate which emphasizes outreach and communication.

I did look at the technical manual for the building and Campbell quite correctly noted that it doesn’t provide answers to my questions. I checked the information on lighting and searched for the terms ‘windows’ and ‘electrochromic windows’ in the building manual (the search function does not seem to be working).

The response from Campbell is a pretty standard bureaucratic response (I must give her credit for being significantly more polite than many others). The problem starts with the organization’s stated mandate of  ‘sharing’. I am assuming the intentions are good but the execution is a problem as it often is with mandates that include words such as  ‘sharing’, ‘interactivity’, ‘openness’, and/or ‘community building’, etc. in situations where that is not always possible.

There is another issue: a communications manager is acting as an interface or gatekeeper to the scientists. Note:  I’m not familiar with UBC or CIRS policies regarding direct contact with scientists. Campbell may have been acting as an interface or gatekeeper as a consequence of my initial request which was made to Brian Lin of UBC’s Public Affairs group, although the result seems roughly the same whether Campbell’s role as gatekeeper was intentional or accidental. It should be noted that she never explicitly denied access to a scientist and even if I did get access, there is no guarantee I would have received any answers (scientists aren’t always willing to talk). Still, could Campbell’s response be described as censorship? Before I try to answer that question, I’m going to touch on another situation.

Over the last few years the Canadian government has intentionally instituted a new strategy of insisting a communications professional act as an interface to government scientists. This ‘new’ practice has become a sore point for Canadian journalists who have described it as ‘muzzling scientists’. I certainly haven’t been happy about this added hurdle to getting questions answered as I noted most recently in my Jan. 24, 2012 posting but I’m still considering whether the practice could be described as censorship or not.

The AAAS 2012 annual meeting in Vancouver hosted an event about the ‘science muzzle’ and it was SRO (standing room only). I didn’t attend largely because it had a certain fevered quality I associate with mobs but it has stimulated a fair degree of discussion. Here’s a description of the session from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada webpage titled Unmuzzling Government Scientists,

 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? Are they justified?

How do obstructions in communications with scientists compromise science research progression and undermine democracy? And in the end, what can be done to improve the situation? 

The February 17, 2012 posting on the Scientific Canadian blog provides some insight into these ‘obstructions’ (I have removed some links),

 I’ve had my own experiences with the phenomenon. Last spring, I interviewed Environment Canada scientist David Tarasick about how cold stratospheric temperatures led to more ozone depletion than usual in 2011. Although he was quite willing to talk to me, government policy required my questions to be submitted in advance by e-mail, and his written responses vetted by Environment Canada’s media relations department; I never did speak to him in person, and couldn’t ask any follow-up questions. More importantly, the whole process took about two weeks. If I had been writing for a daily publication instead of a monthly, the delay would have been unacceptably long. By contrast, his co-author on the paper, the University of Toronto’s Kaley Walker, was able to talk to me on the phone within 24 hours. But I was lucky; a few months later Postmedia News was prevented from speaking with Tarasick altogether.

Even though Environment Canada communication professionals eventually refused access to Tarasick, does that action constitute censorship? According to David Bruggeman’s Mar. 3, 2012 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog, the answer is no,

 I am not trying to defend the Canadian government.  There is plenty to disagree with about their policies of limiting the dissemination of government conducted research results.  But because they allow this research to be published, the problem is one of transparency, and not of censorship. It doesn’t help those seeking to change the policies to call the bad behavior something it isn’t.  Utilize Canadian open records and open government laws (whatever might be the equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act) to fight for the information.

It might be helpful to know this about David Bruggeman, from Pasco Phronesis blog About page,

I have over 12 years experience in U.S. federal science and technology policy, conducting research and analysis in many subjects for the National Academies and other organizations while slogging through grad school. My education is in Politics (B.A.), Science, Technology, and Public Policy (M.A.), and Science and Technology Studies (need to write that Ph.D. dissertation). I currently work and blog for the Association for Computing Machinery as its Senior Public Policy Analyst.  (Disclaimer – opinions expressed here are strictly my own.)

I do agree with David’s call for clarity but I’m inclined to consider the ‘muzzle’ as a type of de facto censorship. While the research is published, as David notes, it is usually written in language that renders it inaccessible to virtually anyone who’s not an expert in that field. Reporters and other science communicators such as bloggers often act as translators of highly specialized and, at times, obscure research for a variety of audiences.

Direct access to the scientist or expert researcher allows the reporter/communicator to clarify and better understand the materials as they translate it for other audiences, particularly non expert audiences. Without direct access, the act of translation becomes highly difficult if not impossible. As a direct consequence, you have de facto censorship from every audience other than expert audiences.

Here’s the definition of censorship I found at Wikipedia,

 Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body.

Given that definition and getting back to Campbell and her response to my electrochromic window questions, then it could be described as censorship if she’s withholding information (again, she did not refuse access to scientists [she contacted Alberto Cayuela for the first response], which differentiates this from the Environment Canada example). It is possible, although not likely, that the CIRS team does not have the information I requested in my follow up questions.

While I don’t like being on the receiving end, I do believe there are some situations where censorship is indicated. I’m not convinced that’s the case with the electrochromic windows at the CIRS but I am willing to entertain the possibility.

ETA March 9, 2012: Here’s a posting by Leigh Bedon (March 8, 2012) on Techdirt about the issue of the government limiting media access to scientists. The title, Canadians To Prime Minister: Don’t Censor Our Scientists, hints at Bedon’s perspective.