The Big Chill
Yesterday the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) released The Big Chill, a survey posed to their 15,398 science-based members, including federal scientists, researchers and engineers. The survey looked at the scale and impact of “muzzling” federal scientists, and of political interference in science under the Conservative government. I have been worried about this issue for a long time, but a lot of the stories I hear are personal anecdotes. It’s great to have broader data on this issue.
The findings, though, are worrisome. Here are some of the results:
- 90% of federal scientists do not feel that they can speak freely to the media about the work they do
- Faced with a departmental decision or action that could harm public health, safety or the environment, 86% do not believe they could share their concerns with the public or media without censure or retaliation from their department
- 50% of federal scientists report being aware of actual cases in which the health and safety of Canadians or environmental sustainability has been compromised because of political interference with their scientific work.
- 48% are aware of actual cases in which their department or agency suppressed information, leading to incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading impressions by the public, regulated industry, the media and/or government officials
These findings worry me, not only because I believe we need to trust our scientific experts, but also because Canadians expect the government to ensure safe and healthy communities, and we can’t trust the government to protect us if politics is interfering with scientific work. “50% of federal scientists report being aware of actual cases in which the health and safety of Canadians or environmental sustainability has been compromised because of political interference with their scientific work.”
We need to be able to trust that the policies governing health and safety regulations are based on sound, objective evidence.
Today I had the chance to ask the government about this in the House of Commons:
Are you worried about health and safety given the recent PIPSC survey? Tell me on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/TedHsuMP?ref=hl#!/TedHsuMP/posts/10151796549089652