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Canadian scientists fight back against ‘muzzling’

Posted on behalf of Nicola Jones.

Canadian government scientists have launched a counter-offensive against recent complaints of ‘muzzling’ (see Nature’s World View column) by creating a website where they can voice their opinions. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada – a union representing more than 23,000 public servants involved in science – started a campaign to promote the cause of science for the public good on Monday 18 October.

Institute president Gary Corbett explains in the Institute’s press release that Canadian government scientists face “dwindling resources” (see Nature’s news story on the most recent budget) and “confusing policy decisions”. That would include the recent controversial scrapping of the mandatory long-form of the Canadian census (see Nature’s editorial).

The Institute’s website hosts some (unfortunately rather dry) video testimonials by scientists explaining the importance of their work – a worthy project, but sadly one unlikely to ignite a public rally to support the cause. Former Toronto Star staff reporter Peter Calamai gets a bit more passionate lambasting Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “There’s no leadership from the top at all – that’s painfully obvious,” he says. The ‘Take action!’ section of the site is currently blank, but a CBC story reports the website will soon encourage people to email their MPs. The Globe and Mail reports that the website will be used to highlight contradictions between science and policy.

Canadian scientists are becoming increasingly savvy about how to promote their cause in government. The Canadian Science Policy Conference, now in its second year, will take place in Montreal later this week.

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