Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

October 08, 2014 12:04 ET

Poor Grades for Federal Science Communications Policies a Wake-Up Call, Says PIPSC

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Oct. 8, 2014) - The release today of a new report grading federal science-based departments' communication policies for openness of communication, protection against political interference, the right to free speech and protection for whistleblowers is being welcomed by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) as critical new evidence that the Harper government needs to wake up and stop its assaults on public science. The report, released by Simon Fraser University (SFU) and Evidence 4 Democracy (E4D) and titled Can Scientists Speak?, gave the departments a C- average for the policies that govern science communication with the media.

"This is not a grade to be proud of or to take home to voters," said PIPSC President Debi Daviau. "This is a grade that says Canada is failing its most fundamental obligations to keep Canadians adequately informed of urgent science matters such as climate change."

The report finds that government media policies do not support open and timely communication, nor do they protect scientists' right to free speech. This corroborates findings from a PIPSC survey report released last fall, The Big Chill, that found 90% of federal scientists are not allowed to speak freely to the media about the work they do.

The new report also finds that current government media policies do not protect against political interference, aligning with findings from The Big Chill that nearly one-quarter (24%) of federal scientists have been directly asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons.

"Federal scientists face a climate of fear," says PIPSC president Debi Daviau, "a chill brought on by government policies that serve no one's interests, least of all those of the Canadian public. The safety of our food, air, water, of hundreds of consumer and industrial products, and our environment depends on the ability of federal scientists to provide complete, unbiased, timely and accurate information to Canadians. Current policies must change to ensure these objectives are met."

The new report offers a series of overarching recommendations, as well as departmental-specific recommendations. "PIPSC finds the report's recommendations very workable and urges the federal government to implement them in order to improve government transparency and open communication," added Daviau.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada represents approximately 55,000 professionals across Canada's public sector, including over 15,000 scientists, engineers and researchers.

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