Just last week, Michael Harris posted an article about the recent changes to Publication Review Committee Procedures for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. These procedures deal with the steps that departmental staff need to do in order to submit and publish their work in scientific articles.
In a response to Harris’ post, DFO Communications Advisor Mélanie Carkner released the following statement:
“The department would like to provide input to the story published on
February 7th, 2013.
The iPolitics story by Michael Harris published on February 7th, 2013
is untrue. There have been no changes to the Department’s publication
Here’s the e-mail I got from my division manager on January 29th, 2013:
“Subject: New Publication Review Committee (PRC) Procedures for C&A Science”
“This message is regarding the new Publication Review Committee procedures for C&A Science….”
The e-mail noted that the procedures were to take effect February 1st, 2013.
So, the communications advisor says there’s been no changes, but I have an e-mail from my administrators detailing the changes, and indicating when the changes would take effect. You decide who’s being untruthful.
The documents e-mailed to all DFO scientists in Central and Arctic region (see below) support the two of the main concerns raised in the Harris article:
1. Review procedures used to only apply to publications where the first author was a DFO scientist. Now, it applies to any paper with a DFO scientist on it, first or co-author.
2. This is maybe the most important point: the author of the paper no longer signs off on the copyright on behalf of the crown (sidebar: because the work is done as part of the Government of Canada, the Crown owns the copyright- similar situations apply to government science around the world- the issue is not copyright ownership, but who actually signs off on it). This is a problem because it gives someone who has had no role in contributing to the work in the paper or the science conducted as part of the publication the ability to keep the paper from publication by refusing to sign the release form. This also assumes that the same manager “approved” the paper for submission and review at a scientific journal in the first place.
The only possible way out of this mess is that the DFO scientist involved in the paper pulls out and leaves it to an academic co-author to publish- even if that means giving up first authorship (e.g., the guy who wrote the paper no longer even appears as a contributor to the work), and assuming that you have an academic co-author (note: from this point forward, I will ALWAYS have an academic co-author).
That assumes, of course, that the government scientist somehow managed to get permission to do the work in the first place.
All of this acts to weaken the contributions of government scientists moving forward.
UPDATE: Feb. 14th: According to Margaret Munro, who has thoughtfully commented on this post below (as well as written a related story that’s all over the place at the moment), DFO’s tune is changing since Harris’ original article. Apparently, Assistant Deputy Minister Kevin Stringer has now admitted that the publication procedure has changed. Hope to hear more about this angle soon.