New report says federal policies limit government scientists’ freedom of speech

October 9, 2014

A new report entitled “Can Scientists Speak?” suggests that Canada’s federal scientists are in many cases not as free to communicate the results of their research as their American colleagues. The report, produced in collaboration between Simon Fraser University and non-profit, non-partisan group Evidence for Democracy (E4D), scored 16 federal departments in 5 categories pertaining to accessibility and clarity of communications, timeliness of communications, protection of scientific free speech, dispute resolution, and protection against political interference. The report’s authors found that in general government policies do not promote open and timely communication between scientists and the media, nor do they protect scientists’ freedom of speech. Only the Department of National Defence scored above a “C+” overall; it received a grade of “B.” 4 federal departments received a grade of “F.” All but one department scored lower than the US average for 2013. “Our findings are concerning because current media policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” said E4D Executive Director Katie Gibbs. Report Summary | Toronto Star | Globe and Mail