Can Scientists Speak?

Ted Hsu
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Today, Evidence for Democracy released Can Scientists Speak?, a report evaluating communication policies for federal government scientists. This is an important report.



I’ve tried to understand and assess the government’s communications policies for scientists. I’ve used Order Paper Questions to ask the government to share communications policies they have put in place for federal departments. Unfortunately, none of these departments claimed to have any documents explaining instructions given by their ministers.


I have also used Access to Information requests to see letters of instruction from the Minister of Industry and the Minister of State for Science and Technology to the new President of the National Research Council. Again, the response was almost entirely redacted.


Can Scientists Speak? confirms what we’ve seen over the past seven years of this Conservative government: media policies do not support open and timely communication between journalists, nor do they protect against political interference with regard to science communication. Evidence for Democracy graded 16 federal departments on their media policies, and 85% were given a grade of C or lower. Four departments (Canadian Space Agency, Public Works and Government Services, Industry Canada and Natural Resources) failed the assessment.


Canadian deserve better. We need to know that the valuable research our federal scientists are doing is being communicated properly. Politicians need this information to make good policies, and Canadians need this information to have confidence that the government is making decisions for the public good.