Apparently, it’s more than just me that feels like something has gone bad in the refrigerator of Government Science.
My union, the Professional Institute of Public Servants, commissioned Environics Research to conduct a survey of it’s Research Scientist members a number of months ago. It’s received a good deal of attention from media outlets. In response to the report which indicates widespread and broad suppression of science in the Federal Government in informing policy, our Minister of Science and Technology responded, “Our government has made record investments in science.” Since he totally disregarded the question in his response, I take this as his acknowledgement that our concerns are valid.
The results of the survey seem to confirm a number of the concerns that I’ve expressed on this blog. You can find a full copy of the report at the bottom of the page here. I’d recommend reading the full environics report that’s also provided on that page as it provides a great deal more details, including specifics relating to individual departments. Neither is very long; 7 and 20 pages each, very easy reading and lots of figures.
In a nutshell, here’s the highlight reel:
90% of federal scientists feel they cannot speak to the media freely about the research they conduct.
74% feel that current communications policies for discussing research with the media are too restrictive.
50-73% are concerned that new policies around publications/data sharing/collaborative agreements will impede their ability to collaborate with colleagues internationally, in both the public and private sector and with academics. We’ve already seen some researchers balk at new data sharing agreements and walk away from collaborations as a result of these changes.
Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they’d been asked to alter or exclude information for non-scientific reasons.
There are a number of chilling perceptions as well regarding how departmental changes are altering government policy; take that for what you want, since we don’t make the policy, we just try to provide the scientific evidence to inform it.