Canadian gov't scientists protest gag order, go straight to public with own website

Alan sez, "It looks like the Canadian government is making life harder for scientists who want to talk to the media about their work. Presumably the science is inconvenient for those in power. In response, the scientists' union has put up a web site to inform the public directly."

Canada's Tory government is notoriously hostile to science (especially climate science, which poses an existential threat to their power base in the planet-killing tar-sands). But a state-imposed gag-order on scientists, putting their ability to communicate to the press in the hands of petty bureaucrats, is beyond the pale even for them. Why is it that so many "small government neocons" love big government solutions to their embarrassing little problems?

"Federal government scientists work hard to protect Canadians, preserve their environment and ensure our country's prosperity but they face dwindling resources and confusing policy decisions," institute president Gary Corbett said in a release.

The website features interviews with the professionals who do science for the public good, experts who understand the critical importance of this work, and Canadians whose lives have been touched by public science. It is part of a broader campaign to underline the importance of science for the public good and to mobilize scientists and citizens to press politicians to make a clear commitment to policies that support public science.

"Our members are proud of the work that they do as independent and non-partisan scientists and we are going to work with them to tell their stories," Mr. Corbett said. "Their work impacts on the daily lives of Canadians. It is science that is not and cannot be done by industry or by universities."

Federal scientists go public in face of restrictive media rules (Thanks, Alan!)


  1. Canadian speech is under assault in all sorts of ways. I wonder how many scientists scoffed at Jonah Goldberg’s free-speech fight with the Canadian govt., and what they’re thinking now.

  2. What the FUCK is happening to my country? Why are good, decent people putting up with these fascist policies? Where is the outrage? Where is the Official Opposition? Why are we not triggering a non-confidence vote over these blatant attacks on logic, reason, and The Charter Of Rights And Freedoms?



    1. Dude, when have Canadians ever been publicly outraged about anything? They just move south and talk about how things are better in Canada.

      Also, the idea of a “scientist union” really, really irks me.

  3. During the Bush years we had this in the USA as well. Politically appointed officials editing scientific reports on climate change, and that sort of thing.

    1. Kind of like the IPCC where the report was edited very significantly by political types _after_ the scientists involved had signed it?

  4. Harper’s government is also not so subtly suggesting all scientists lack integrity and needs to be policed….

    Canada ‘research integrity’ council recommended
    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Canada should establish a new agency to help reduce the incidence of scientists falsifying data, misusing research funds or other misconduct, an expert panel recommends. …The report by the 14-member expert panel appointed by the Council of Canadian Academies is intended to respond to a 2009 question from Industry Minister Tony Clement about what research integrity principles, procedural mechanisms and practices could be applied to all research funding by federal granting agencies.

    “The Council of Canadian Academies (Conseil des Académies Canadiennes) was created to perform independent, expert assessments of the science that is relevant to important public issues. The Council’s assessment scope includes the natural, social and health sciences, engineering and the humanities. The Council is a private, non-profit corporation that has received a $30 million founding grant in 2005 from the Government of Canada.”

  5. I may not be living in Canada anymore but I didn’t realise that they started to go back in time and live in the past. Is the government going to start house arresting scientists like Galileo?

  6. I don’t understand climate change denialists. Do they think climate scientists are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to… do what? Make people use electric cars, muahahaha? How dastardly.

    They obviously trust the conclusions of, for example, semiconductor researchers, assuming they own computers, phones, TVs, etc. I mean, where are the electron mobility denialists? The anti-doping campaigns? Or perhaps they don’t understand the science involved in semiconductors, and so they leave it to scientists.

    1. I don’t understand climate change denialists. Do they think climate scientists are engaged in a worldwide conspiracy to… do what?

      Well, what happens to a climate scientist’s job and funding prospects if it is agreed that there is no major problem?

      It’s like asking tokamak fusion researchers if they think tokamak fusion will ever be a viable commercial power source. Sure it will, just keep the money coming.

      I don’t personally hold this view, but I can understand why there are people who do.

      1. What surprises me is that people who are so paranoid about how climate scientists get their money are somehow willing to take things the Cato, Frasier, and Heartland Institutes say at face value.

  7. I met Michael Ignatieff (Liberal leader and head of the opposition in Canada) this August and I got a chance to tell him that Canadians are looking for his voice, but not finding it. I’m deeply disappointed that the Liberals have allowed these right-wingnuts to take the country to the brink of darkness like this.
    Ignatieff is more than intelligent; he’s one of the brightest minds on the planet. Why can’t he come up with a political strategy to combat fear-mongering and narrow-mindedness?

    In spite of my misgivings, I would still vote for him as I don’t see any other choice. Besides – he’s super sexy in person and he smells really good.

    1. Brave of you to so freely admit your ignorance, but as such an admission is the first step to knowledge, good for you.

      I have difficulty in understanding what kind of a scientist a “partisan scientist” may be, considered in relation to their field of study. My guess is, that such would actually simply be another way to describe a poor, that is to say, an incompetent, ‘scientist’.

    2. Non partisan means that the scientist has no particular political affiliation. That is, he isn’t trying to promote any individual party’s platform.

  8. All raw data collected by any gov’t or any university should be published online.

    All electronic journal articles should include the raw data.

    If not then I can always accuse the analysis of being wrong.

        1. I find it’s often a slightly different issue – the study is very close to a different question I’d be interested in, and the data they collected would actually be able to provide that answer, if they’d been looking.

          I wish I could think of a concrete example, but I’m blanking – the idea is though, that a study has questioned people on items A, B, and C, and then discussed how A and B each separately correlate to C. I read the study and go, “Well, no real surprise there. The interesting question is, what is the difference between (A and B) vs (A and not B), with respect to C”

    1. I agree that all raw data should be freely available, an added benefit would be the insight that people may gain from the areas of study undertaken

  9. Stories like this really illustrate how messed up Canadian politics is. As a professional whose livelihood depends on the non-oilsands petroleum industry, I have met and worked with a number of the scientists in the employ of our government. They have my respect as honest, hard-working folks who sometimes get to do useful research (when they aren’t sitting in meetings).

    On the one hand, canuck R&D funding has benefited during the tenure of the tories. The problem is that so many of the people in the party are so goddamn ignorant, and sadly the problem is not confined to just the xtians. If the only other choice is the casual corruption of the liberals, who traditionally cut science budgets, then what hope is there?

  10. “planet-killing tar-sands” Don’t be so quick to pass judgement. Like it or no, oil is a huge part of our modern way of life. Many of the world’s oil fields are declining in their production while the oil sands are producing more. Oil sand production in Canada creates many well paying jobs, and supplies our government with much needed money.

    All this is at the expense of the environment, yes. Like it or not, the oil is gonig to come from somewhere. At least in Canada we don’t kill civilians, exploit laborers, and actually have environmental controls.

    An oil reserve the size of the tar sands will be exploited wherever it is located. You should count your blessings that it is in Canada, and not in China or some African nation.

    1. ‘The Environment’ isn’t some abstract concept, it is your economy. Factor in all the secondary, externalized costs of production and utilization, and I’d be willing to bet it would make more economic sense to leave your tar sands in the ground. How much renewable energy could be bought, how much electric car and alternative plastics development could you fund?

  11. This news is utterly unsurprising. It bugs me that Harper got in power entirely because the other parties couldn’t get their act together. The voters, as well. After all, if everyone simply voted for the candidate they thought would best represent them, instead of against the guy who they don’t like, I kinda doubt we’d see a conservative government. Or we wind up with another endlessly bickering minority- but maybe a less corrupt one.

    1. But that’s why we have a conservative government. Harper has a minority because most people didn’t want him, but it is a government because people voting against him all chose different candidates. The problem is that there’s not enough bickering; Harper is able to push through things the majority don’t want, becausing the other parties are afraid of getting blamed for causing another election.

  12. That’s the message the Conservatives would like: getting oil from Canada isn’t as bad as Zimbabwe, that’s the standard to compare to, so nobody has any right to complain about the environmental impact. Hence their hostility towards scientists, who often complain anyways.

  13. Whether or not these Canadian scientists are right about whatever it is they’re researching, commenters here are entirely off-base to treat questioning them as if it’s heresy.

    The ability to question them is exactly the reason they should be allowed to speak freely. If the scientists had any sense at all, they’d be recruiting their naysayers and deniers to help them retain the freedom to tell the public about their results!

    Many of you are missing the point.

    1. No, the point is that releasing scientific data allows everyone to question and scrutinize. Stifling data, as the Tories have been doing, means no one except a handful of (non-science-educated) suits knows the truth.

      If the Tories are afraid of science, that should scare you.

  14. government stifling scientists from communicating their findings because they do not support their agenda. how frightening!

    science needs open communication to be self correcting, which is why there is peer review and open discussion in the scientific community and nothing is taken seriously until it has been independently verified by several neutral third parties. that is what makes science so great!

      1. that is why nothing is taken seriously in any scientific circle until independently verified by multiple additional neutral parties. if it isn’t repeatable and verifiable then it isn’t science. good science never relies on data from a single source. this is why when you look at the history of scientific ideas it is exceptional at self correcting. sure some people practice bad science and push bad ideas out, but those ideas never last for any length of time.

      2. ps. the article you point to is exactly the sort of science that peer review and open discussion in the scientific community exposes. that is how the author of the article is even aware of the discrepancy, it was pointed out by other scientists.

    1. Anything that lets me whip up a quick report on a century’s worth of precipitation in Glace Bay is alright with me.

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