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Editorial Cartoon by AnthonyJenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Editorial Cartoon by AnthonyJenkins (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Federal scientists go public in face of restrictive media rules Add to ...

The union that represents federal government scientists has created a website - PublicScience.ca - to give a voice to the work of its members.

The move comes weeks after it was revealed that new restrictive rules have been placed on scientists at the Natural Resources department requiring them to clear a number of hoops, including approval from the minister's director of communications, before they may speak with the press about their work.

While Natural Resources was singled out, reporters and scientists across a wide range of departments are well aware that the government frowns upon direct communication between its employees and the media without prior approval.

The website launched by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the national union that includes 23,000 who work in scientific research and testing says: "Public scientists and researchers use their skills and expertise to benefit all Canadians. Their job is to work in the public interest as independent experts protecting the health and welfare of Canadians and their communities."

The union said in a release the recent decision to end the mandatory long-form census is the latest step in a worrying trend away from evidence-based policy making. Restrictive rules are curtailing media and public access to scientists, while cutbacks to research and monitoring limit Canada's ability to deal with serious threats and potential opportunities, the union added.

"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."

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