Canada’s Restrictions on Scientists’ Speech Raise Concerns

Jane J. Lee
Science Mag

VANCOUVER, CANADA—Government scientists in Canada are facing growing restrictions on their ability to speak directly to the public and the press—and could benefit from new policies being instituted south of the border in the United States, according to panelists discussing the issue at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, which publishes ScienceInsider) in Vancouver, Canada, this past week.

In one example, Margaret Munro, a reporter with Postmedia News in Canada, noted that media relations rules implemented in 2007 by Environment Canada, an agency similar to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have hindered communication between journalists and scientists. It’s become so difficult to try to get an interview with government scientists that a lot of reporters have stopped trying, she said. When researchers are allowed to speak, they are sometimes given approved messages to relay to reporters.

A second panelist, Andrew Weaver, a fisheries scientist at the University of Victoria, discussed internal government reports showing that media coverage of climate change science from Environment Canada had dropped precipitously.

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