While scientists rallied on Parliament Hill today, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart announced his intention to table the following motion.
That, in the opinion of the House, federal departments and agencies conducting scientific research should identify, develop, and implement communication policies that:
(i) actively support and encourage federal scientists to speak freely to the media and the public about scientific and technical matters based on their official research, including scientific and technical ideas, approaches, findings, and conclusions;
(i) allow federal scientists to present viewpoints that extend beyond their scientific research and incorporate their expert or personal opinions providing they specify they are not speaking on behalf of, or as a representative, of their department or agency;
(iii) ensure that public affairs or communications officers, elected officials, and Ministerial staff do not restrict, limit, or prevent federal scientists from responding to media requests in a timely and accurate manner;
(iv) prohibit public affairs or communications officers, elected officials, and Ministerial staff from directing federal scientists to suppress or alter their findings;
and (v) affirm the right of federal scientists to review, approve, and comment publicly on the final version of any proposed publication that significantly relies on their research, identifies them as an author or contributor, or purports to represent their scientific opinion.
It’s not clear yet when or how exactly this will be put to the House and motions of this sort aren’t binding.
Jonathon Gatehouse wrote this past spring about the Harper government’s relationship with science and Chris Turner, the journalist and former Green candidate, has a book out next month on the same subject.