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Canada’s Royal Society president attacks ‘shackling’ of scientists

Yolande Grisé, president of the Royal Society of Canada, has declared that “unreasonable limits are being placed on the ability of government-employed scientists to communicate their findings” in Canada.

The statement came in an article by Grisé published in two Canadian newspapers, the Globe and Mail and Le Devoir, on 4 January.

Restrictions have been particularly strong in environment-related topics, wrote Grisé, citing the example of Canadian government scientist Kristi Miller. After publishing work on the collapse of Pacific salmon stocks in the journal Science in 2010, Miller was not allowed to speak to the media about her work.

Grisé wrote that a policy clarifying the relationship between scientists and the government is needed, and that such a policy should “underscore the government’s commitment to advance scientific knowledge and not to hinder its dissemination.

“The federal government should immediately unshackle government scientists and let them do their jobs,” the article concluded. “The integrity of evidence-based public policy development is at stake.”

The issue of government censorship of scientists has received attention from organisations around the world, including the International Council for Science (ICSU), an association of national and international scientific bodies.

ICSU sent a letter to its members last June asking for their input about “muzzling” of scientists. The Royal Society of New Zealand and the Council of Finnish Academies said in response that issues related to censorship of scientists occurred in their countries.