More than half of federal government scientists still feel muzzled, poll finds


More than two years after the selection of a federal government that says it wants scientists to speak readily, more than half of federal scientists who respond to a new poll say they in any event don’t feel they can.

When asked if they agree with the communiqu “I am allowed to speak freely and without constraints to the media about wield I do at my Department/Agency,” 53 per cent of 3,025 respondents answered “No.”

The voting was commissioned by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), a mixing that represents more than 15,000 federal scientists.

The deliberate survey, conducted online by Environics Research between May 29 and June 27, 2017, was sent to 15,398 associates.

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Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, persisted in a 2017 photo, was ‘a little surprised’ so many federal scientists hush feel they can’t speak freely. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Pack)

The results, published in a report called Defrosting Public Science, are modernized from a similar poll conducted in 2013 under Stephen Harper’s Reactionary government, which was widely criticized for muzzling federal scientists.

At that often, 90 per cent of respondents said they were not allowed to communicate in freely to the media. (The survey response rate that time was reduce higher, at 26 per cent instead of 19 per cent).

But the improved terminates are still unacceptable, said Debi Daviau, president of PIPSC, which pictures 16,000 federal scientists and commissioned both polls.

“When half of your associates still feel that they don’t have the right to speak readily, it’s a concern,” she told CBC News. “I was a little surprised.”

After all, when the new Philanthropic government was elected in 2015, cabinet ministers like Navdeep Bains, Envoy of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Catherine McKenna, Minister of Atmosphere and Climate Change, publicly announced that scientists were at no cost to speak.

And the union has since negotiated language in federal scientists’ constricts that protect their right to speak freely about their operate and their science.

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A man dressed as then prime minister Stephen Harper affectations during a demonstration against the muzzling of MPs and federal government employees in Ottawa April 18, 2013. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Bosses blamed

The new report says that, “Anecdotally, some respondents attribute this relaxed rate of change to managers who are misinformed or even unwilling to change.”

Daviau divulges that means there’s more work to be done.

The report recommends dump staff and management training sessions to foster and promote the right to talk to, as well as getting scientific integrity policies in place in all departments to care for that right.

The poll also found:

  • 20 per cent of respondents bruit about they had been prevented by public relations staff or by management from answering a problem from the media or public that they had the expertise to answer (down from 37 per cent in 2013).
  • 40 per cent admitted that their “ability to develop policy, law and programs that are based on well-organized evidence and facts has been compromised by political interference” (down from 71 per cent in 2013).
  • 23 per cent tallied with the statement “I am aware of cases where the health and safety of Canadians (or environmental sustainability) has been compromised because of administrative interference with our scientific work” (down from 50 per cent in 2013).
  • 29 per cent express the were aware of cases where their department or agency has control or declined to release information, and where this has led to incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading imitations by the public, regulated industry, the media and/or government officials (down from 48 per cent in 2013).

One occur that hasn’t changed is the proportion of respondents who say the public would be safer served if the federal government strengthened whistleblower protections — 89 per cent, compared to 88 per cent in 2013.

Daviau translated a Parliamentary committee produced a report with recommendations that PIPSC get pleasure fromed in July 2017, but no action has been taken since then.

“Until we assemble in stronger whistleblower legislation, scientists are going to continue to have to elect between their careers and protecting the public interest, and that’s impartial wrong.”

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Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, seen in a photo from January, affirms she is ‘making every effort to meet with scientists and to encourage them to converse about their important work with each other and with Canadians.’ (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Editorial writers)

When asked to comment on the report, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan, who is currently nomadic with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India, reiterated the superintendence’s commitment to ensuring scientists can speak freely about their turn out.

She added in a statement emailed to CBC News that the newly appointed Chief Subject Advisor, Mona Nemer, has been asked to ensure government body of laws is available to the public, that federal scientists are aware of their new arrogance to speak about their work, and that science informs direction decision-making.

“We know that culture change takes time. But I am discovering every effort to meet with scientists and to encourage them to thrash out their important work with each other and with Canadians.”

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