Canadian government censoring scientists from media?

The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 17 2010 7:27 AM

Canadian government censoring scientists from media?

I'm very surprised to see from two sources (The Montreal Gazette and The Ottawa Citizen) that scientists with Natural Resources Canada -- the government department that deals with natural resources -- need to get permission from their Minister's office before going to the media with their scientific results... and that the office has say over whether they can talk to the media or not.

What? I mean really, WHAT?

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

OK, first: I understand that the government funds scientific research, and there are caveats that must apply when that happens. I also understand that the government should have some say in how scientific results are released. Whether you're a scientist at a university, a private company, or a government lab, you shouldn't just go to the media with results when you get them; there are proper channels in announcing them.

However, this is a very dangerous precipice upon which to balance. There is a big difference between the government following rules to make sure results are released correctly, versus deciding whether to release them or not at all. In the end, any and all scientific findings should be public and can be discussed with the media. The government should never have any censorship over that. They might have a hand in how the results are announced, but not if they are announced!

This is chilling news. In the US we saw the previous Administration interfere with science over and again, from stem cells to global warming to the incredibly embarrassing George Deutsch affair at NASA. I'd hate to see that sort of political hackery in other countries as well.

The bottom line: politicians shouldn't decide what science is worth releasing and what isn't. Their job is to make sure the flow of research is unimpeded, and not to dam it up. I'm not sure where this Canadian policy is headed, but I hope the citizens up there make sure their politicians know what they think about it.

Tip o' the toque to Glen Shearlaw


TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 9:26 AM These Lego Masterpieces Capture the Fear and Humor of the “Dark” Side
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 8:46 AM The Vintage eBay Find I Wore to My Sentencing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.