Evidence for Democracy has released a report titled "Can Scientists Speak? Grading communication policies for federal government scientists".
This report grades 16 Canadian federal government departments on their communication and media policies, finding:
"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. This information is essential for people to see how science is used in government decision-making, and thus be able to hold the government accountable," says E4D’s Executive Director Dr. Katie Gibbs, an author on the report.
Federal government scientists play an important role by providing expertise that Canadians and politicians rely on to ensure the safety of our food, air, water, and environment. However, in recent years, federal scientists have been reporting severe restrictions on their ability to communicate freely and openly. This report is the first to examine this serious issue from a policy perspective in Canada, as communications policies dictate how scientists are able to communicate with journalists and the public.
The report provides detailed report cards on each agency, breaking down scores into five key areas: Current and accessible communications policies, open and timely access to scientists, political interference, personal-views exceptions (rights to free speech), and dispute resolution/whistleblower protections. The report also compares Canadian department scores to those of U.S. agencies in 2008 and 2013 (graded by the Union of Concerned Scientists).
Based on these findings, the report issues recommendations for each individual department, as well as five key overall solutions for improving science communication policies. These include:
The report cards for each agency are available here:
Note: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat policies were used to assess Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and Transport Canada due to the absence of media policies for these departments.
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