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Federal departments get lacklustre grades for science communication


Ottawa, ON – A report released today by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) shows that most federal departments fail to adequately support open communication between their researchers and the public.

The report, the first in Canada, graded media policies of 16 federal departments for openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers. Over 85% of departments assessed received a grade of C or lower. Four departments failed. When compared to U.S. departments, all but one performed worse than the U.S. average.

“Media policies don’t meet basic requirements for open communication between federal scientists and the media. This could prevent scientists from informing the public on important issues, from drug safety to climate change.” says Dr. Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author of the report.

These results come in the wake of allegations that government scientists are being muzzled and support a recent survey of federal scientists themselves, who feel severe restrictions on their ability to speak freely.

“Federal scientists are important public servants with critical expertise,” says Dr. Arne Mooers, a professor of biodiversity at Simon Fraser University and an advisor for the report. “Only an informed public can evaluate what governments are doing on their behalf. Strengthening communication between scientists and public strengthens our democracy.”

More information and a copy of the report, complete with full methodology, is available at www.evidencefordemocracy.ca/canscientistsspeak.