Well, in a world where information wants to be free - good information and exposes, and even bad information like debunked anti-vaccine hoopla - those who seek to control it should be viewed suspiciously. In the case of the Harper government actions, suspicion can easily be revised to "clear agenda and manipulation to those ends" which, you know, sounds a lot worse on paper. What a horrible way to treat scientists, really, just a terribly pig-headed and shamlessly pandering approach by the Harper government to please who they felt needed pleasing.
That 38% of the population doesn't care, or endorse this kind of behavior.
I just dropped the subject from there on out :|
I hate tinfoil hat conspiracies. Its starting to plague society and get people disconnected from problems that need immediate attention.
Its good you dropped the subject, there's just no reasoning with them.
It seem the more likely one is to want to help society, the less likely that person understands this fundamental aspect of human nature.
And so somehow the ones who really GET IT are the ones in power, and the ones who don't want to make anything better.
It's so refreshing when you find a persuader in charge of everything who also wants to make everything better, like say Duterte in the Philippines, for example.
It's no wonder then that it pervades into peoples lives, shaping their world view and even their presidential candidate selection.
I don't presume to speak for the organization I work for or the industry I work in.
The government demanded that government employees get approval for any direct communications with media, etc. This all began when a researcher seriously impacted the salmon industry by releasing extremely preliminary results (that turned out to be wrong), making a name for herself and setting up a PR circuit. The media loves apocalyptic outcomes ("So would you say this means that we're all going to die?"), so of course it made headlines with the most dire of predictions.
This was not an independent researcher. This was not the private sector. This was someone directly employed by the government. It's like a Microsoft employee wrote about vulnerabilities in Windows on their private blog, offering to sell solutions.
So the government put a process in place not unlike much of the Western world, doing nothing to control the science (papers were published, research was released, etc. The scientific world understands that preliminary results are preliminary), but having everything to do with the message relayed to the media. Of course this was met with a conspiratorial narrative that continues to this day: That they were hiding dire greenhouse gas/global warming information, for instance.
But the shackles have come off. Where are all of these dramatic scientific findings that were suppressed?
The single example constantly floated is about a guy who got called by a reporter about a paper he released about ~~slime mold~~ rock snot (the exampled floated in literally hundreds of articles about the muzzling of scientists). This government scientist was outraged that he couldn't get approval within 24 hours, and the reporter lost interest. Apparently rock snot is a real timely issue in media circles.
There was a lot wrong with the prior government. An enormous amount. By this particular story is about some freelancing employees who don't want anyone telling them what to do.
The very article you're responding to mentions 3 specific examples of politically sensitive research that were affected by the policy, including the article's featured example about salmon.
> The single example constantly floated is about a guy who got called by a reporter about a paper he released about slime mold.
Of the 4 examples mentioned in the original article (3 specific examples, 1 shark scientist mentioned in passing), none of them are this "constantly floated" example, it isn't even mentioned in passing. Nor is it mentioned in either of the articles that my sibling comment linked to.
This is a bizarre response.
But all three demonstrate nothing being suppressed. It points to two people who claim to have left their jobs (moved elsewhere/retired) because of these restrictions (although unburdened they apparently had no big reveal, or even an anecdote about anything being suppressed. But polar bears or something -- the casual allusion being entirely manipulative and intentional), and a salmon researcher who released all of their science, including publication in Science, but couldn't give soundbites as an official representative of the government of Canada. Exactly as I stated, this is a union/workplace issue, and people having grievances about workplace policies, with shockingly little to say about how it actually impacted science.
including its featured example about salmon.
That was the beginning (it was literally the first example of communications policies interfering in someone's feeling of being a freelancer). The salmon industry was already sensitive, and with great fanfare the PR circus began for a paper in Science. The government was sensitive about the misrepresentation of science, not about the science. Again, the paper was published. The science was documented. The same person was presenting at a Salmon inquiry. But they couldn't provide soundbites without it being considered and controlled.
EDIT: Two hours in, and for the many, many down arrows I've gotten by people showing how strongly they feel about this, it's notable that the combined examples of suppressed science catalogued thus far: ZERO.
Some more cited here: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/when-science-goes-silent/
People are down voting you because they disagree with you that the government should deny access to publicly funded scientists.
What, it was worried that the scientist would misrepresent their own research? That's ridiculous!
In a scientific paper, a theory is hypothesised, an experiment designed, data and observations conducted and a conclusion is formed. That conclusion, based on the observations and data collected by the scientist, is analysis.
What you are saying is that the scientist will misrepresent their own conclusions.
Let's put that another way: you are saying that the scientist will misrepresent science by contradicting their own conclusions.
Another way of putting it, just to be clear: the scientist will publish their conclusions in a paper, then tell the media the exact opposite of their conclusions. Either by mistake or because they are lying.
You seem to be surprised by the incredulity your post is generating. There's why!
Scientists are human. They are not above human motivations - both good and bad - related to their work, their stature, and their jobs. Funding can be based on certain results. Getting published can be based on certain results.
This is why making experiments and studies that are reproducible is so important.
That said, however, I am actually saying that it's unlikely that a scientist would misrepresent their own published findings. Perhaps it may occur - but if that happened then the government of the day could discipline the scientist who misrepresented their work. They would have to prove it.
What I find more naive is that a media relations person, employed by the government to portray them in the best light, would not misrepresent the work of the scientist.
Who would you want the reporter to speak to: the person employed to protect the reputation of the government of the day, or the scientist who did the actual work?
Why? Just look at that study about sexism on github that came out a couple of months ago, the authors were lying through their teeth. They (correctly) surmised that reporters wouldn't bother looking at the actual results, and so managed to generate tons of media coverage.
Cue relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/882/
If so, why not just manage the reporters directly? Every science news story could be reviewed by a central government office prior to publication, to make sure it's accurate. Of course, the reviews would be done by political appointees and their staff, not the scientists themselves since they have a conflict of interest, it being their research and all.
This would never fly, of course. Canada has at least some semblance of freedom of the press. But for some reason the exact same system, applied to the scientists themselves, was OK?
I would say it is certainly part of the government's job to see to it that the public (including the media, who are simply members of the public who happen to exercise the freedom of the press) receives, when receiving information directly from the government, accurate information about things that the government does, including science.
> If so, why not just manage the reporters directly?
Because while it is the government's obligation to insure that the information it (through its officers and employees) provides to the public (including the media) is accurate and presented appropriately considering the direct audience, it has a different role with regard to information shared about government by members of the public, including the media.
The purpose of federally funded scientific research is not and cannot be to support the policy objectives of the currently sitting government.
So a real answer to the putative problem might be to have an arms length communications office review communication for accuracy, but one that does not directly answer to the PMs office or federal PR. What Harper did was far more draconian than that. At the same time he initiated other damaging actions to federal science, so you can hardly fault people for not trusting the motives. He could have solved this easily by making things arms length, and chose not to, as well as choosing to be very opaque about the whole process. If for no other reason than that, his government deserves all the criticism it has had on this account.
It should have been done in a very different way. It should have been more cooperative (e.g. "clarity officers" who have a masters in English or French, and who pour over statements and responses to ensure that it cannot be misinterpreted or misrepresented, without changing the core meaning).
There hasn't been a single example that had anything to do with the sitting government's policies or agenda. The government had no particular agenda regarding factory farming salmon or rock snot. Though from an overall government perspective for the health of an industry such as salmon (a cross-party industry), they want the message coherent.
This would have been easily achieved by transparency in the process.
They were also, rightly or wrongly, seen as actively de-funding work that could be seen to challenge policy objectives. They had ample opportunities to resolve such impressions but chose instead to present an arrogant face. I can't have a lot of sympathy for that.
Even if you aren't actually meddling, if you have the perception that you are, you have a problem.
If my tax money is going to pay for your research work, and you want to speak to the public, I'm part of the public and I have a right to hear it. I will be the judge of whether your work is my money well spent, and I will be the judge of whether your public communications are time well spent, not some dipshit party hack.
That said, most folks would agree that there is some national security information that should remain classified.
But this science was not classified at all! It was just being forced through a political PR filter. It was public science done on the public's dime, which is just not analogous to nuclear weapons.
If some government egghead is working to asses whether there's lead in the water in Flint, for example, I don't want a GOP party hack to have a yea or nay on whether he talks to the press.
A company controlling its employees' contact with the media in order to serve its business interests is not the same as publicly-funded government employees being gagged to serve some specific political party's interest and disserve the public interest.
However, she figured it was turned into an issue by the media, and roughly supported the ban; her opinion - adjusted for brevity - being that scientists without media training shouldn't necessarily have carte blanche to speak to press.
If the Canadian rule had been shaped like that, probably no one would have objected much. Media training costs a bit of money and takes a day or two, usually--no big deal. But that's not what the rule was.
But at the same time I've considered the actual facts, coupled with the reality that mainstream media, when generalizing science, tends to do a really, really horrible job. The notion that the government wants to ensure the message is clear and coherent -- especially when it's given the weight of the government behind it -- given a free range of employees with their own quirks and communications issues, seems entirely rational.
What other categories of people working for the government should lose their speech rights (I do realize this is Canada)? If a tax collector disagrees with $politician_of_the_month about tax policy, does that count? What about a park ranger on tax policy? Can a trash collector talk to the press about anything without asking Daddy Censor first?
In a different direction,
> The notion that the government wants to ensure the message is clear and coherent [...] seems entirely rational.
Sure, to someone whose goal is presenting a "governmental viewpoint". Which is going to inherently be a political message. In democratic places, we assume an electorate capable of deciding between competing explanations of reality. And given the weight of decisions about things like climate change, don't we want to hear from more, rather than fewer experts? Especially ones paid for by the electorate's taxes?
Just my opinion, but I don't care what the government party line is. Politicizing science is wrong, and governments that attempt to manipulate our knowledge of the world is wrong. I mean both of those in the moral sense. In the practical sense, arguing with reality is not a long term strategy, and is bad for both governments and parties. (There's a certain party to Canada's south that seems to be learning that lesson as I type this.)
I would think that someone leaning libertarian would think something similar.
where did you learn this?
It is quite intriguing ( and a unique thing. But really not ) for people who notice such things.
Right now I'm literally seeing nothing via Googling that supports your idea that the science consultation was merely a response to a rogue salmon researcher and other hype PR and the like.
In addition to the Nature article, on the other hand, plenty of other articles tend to support the position that most of the "muzzling" was political, in key industries that were either afoul of political ideology, or ran contrary to business policy, or both. Here's the first page of Googling on the Harper science issue.
That's a large amount of links that are saying this.
I will note that only a few specific examples of suppression came up repeatedly, so there could be some "political inflation" going on. But showing up with zero counterpoint links isn't doing anyone any favors. At this point, I'd have to think the other side is more correct.
Instinctively I personally think that it is naive to think that "government ensuring the message is clear and coherent" will actually produce better results than a free independent press generalizing science. Bias is natural, but a free and independent press often consists of many biases, not just one, with less power to manipulate public opinion in most cases. (In other words, so what if some mainstream media reports science wrong? After all, some might report it right. Either is a much better situation than science not being reported at all.)
Why should "the government" have any control over what "employees" say?
Everyone has the right to speak their mind and governments, in particular, should be defending that right, not attempting to suppress it.
You mention the media hyping what a particular person said, but that is a failure of that media and their readers to not jump to unsubstantiated conclusions. The real work that needs to be done is in the understanding of media, not in preventing the production of media.
I notice you don't cite a single article, but here's one: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/19/canadas_despicable_climate_c...
"In 2010, three years after Harper first introduced the new communications policy, Environment Canada reported that media coverage of climate change had dropped by more than 80 percent. Meanwhile, the Canadian government’s continued to wage war on science, often at the expense of the environment. In 2013, when NSIDC again reported that summer sea ice was melting, Leona Aglukkaq, Harper’s environment minister, downplayed the findings, explaining in a follow-up conversation that it was “debatable” whether the Arctic was warming. Without free access to the facts, one could argue, that’s a pretty difficult debate to have."
And here's a University of Victoria report: http://www.elc.uvic.ca/2013-muzzlingscientists/
"Yet research done by ELC student Clayton Greenwood demonstrates that the federal government is preventing the media and the Canadian public from speaking to government scientists for news stories especially when the scientists’ research or point of view runs counter to current Government policies on matters such as environmental protection, oil sands development, and climate change. In sharp contrast to past Canadian practice and current US government practice, the federal government has recently made concerted efforts to prevent the media and through them, the general public from speaking to government scientists, and this, in turn, impoverishes the public debate on issues of significant national concern. "
I did some googling and couldn't find a slime mold story, but surely you have a link handy?
Sorry, it was "rock snot".
I don't cite an article because this is really about the absence of something, not the existence of something. What is there to cite? Supposedly during the period in question the scientific world was suppressed. They've now had more than 6 months to drop all of the science bombs that were pent up. Literally nothing. Nothing was suppressed.
>media coverage of climate change had dropped by more than 80 percent
This is an utterly outrageous claim, as if climate science is dependent upon media access to government scientists (particularly Canadian government scientists). There is an enormous non-government group of scientists in Canada, any of whom will freely talk (within the confines and agenda of their own employer, of course). And indeed, the science was as unrestricted as it always was, so they have all of the data and findings to talk to. This is the sort of "find the agenda" noise that just perverts the discussion -- remarkably the media still barely ever talks about global warming, nor do they reference government scientists. It just turns out that the story no longer brought the clicks and the viewers.
Your other link, "research" from a student at the Environment Law Center, begins by saying - "There are few issues more fundamental to democracy than the ability of the public to access scientific information produced by government scientists". But again, absolutely nothing changed about the science that government scientists produced, or its accessibility. The single and only change that happened was media access to government employees, which generally meant "try to get a soundbite that can be presented as we're all gonna die!".
You argue that there haven't been any bombshells after the restrictions were lifed but TFA literally talks about how reporters lost interest within twenty four hours because of administrative delays. Do you really expect a sensationalist, profit-driven media to go over years of backlogged information, to talk to thousands of people, when a few days delay was enough to have a massive chilling effect?
Everything you describe is a problem with the Canadian media, not government scientists. Would you support a law that requires journalists to submit all of their articles to majority coalition PR flacks for editing or do they get a special pass because they're "private"? (Which due to the weird nature of the CBC, they're not)
Bad analogy, IMO. Microsoft is a private corporation. The government is a public entity, responsive directly to the people. A democratic government is supposed to be, IMO must be, transparent to be effective.
As to whether this impacted science, you only need to ask the scientists themselves. They say "yes."
But maybe you don't believe the scientists? If so, that would explain why you don't seem to have a problem with censoring them.
When sixteen political minders exchange dozens or even hundreds of emails over a single media request, it tells me more about the political system than the scientific research.
Kristi Miller-Saunders, who was the principle author of the paper on Salmon death, wasn't allowed to speak to the media, but her non-government co-authors were.
And there is the giant hole in your argument. It's so large I could fly a jumbo jet through it. Scientists in universities are free to speak to the media! These scientists are employees of the university. They are not controlled by media departments. That is truly gagging debate!
It's funny how the government was happy for political media officers to control the message, officers who didn't understand the research as well as the lead author or researchers if scientific studies. Yet that is what you consider unbiased? I mean, your entire argument is that the government must protect the general public from misinformation yet it is the government who is deciding what the scientists can and cannot say... If they stop a scientist from speaking because they believe they are inaccurately explaining their own work, well that's absurd.
If the government is concerned that scientists can't communicate to the media, then I wonder when they might decide that scientists published papers might be potentially misleading and require a media officer to vet them. Peer review by public relations, if you will.
As for the slime mild story, could you tell us more? I don't see any mention of that in the story.
"These scientists are employees of the university." - Ignoring that the relationship of university professors and so on are the result of a long process of give and take, that sample is irrelevant.
The government's concern are media reports quoting Government of Canada scientists. These tend to have more authority. And indeed the media was free to contact any other author of the Science research, and they could talk to industry scientists, and university professors. Exactly as I said (not sure how you think what I said is a "hole" in my own argument). But they didn't want anyone representing the government, with the weight of the government, being misrepresented.
"Some guy at some university says we're all going to die!" is decidedly less convincing, to most, than "Government of Canada environmental scientist says we're all going to die!".
And to your other comment, no one is saying the scientist will misrepresent their own work. But, and this may surprise you if you have utterly no knowledge of how media works, the media will if you aren't extremely careful with your statements and responses. The mainstream media has a surprising ability to misrepresent findings and research, and they just love to attach an authoritative name to it.
This whole discussion is exactly why it's impossible to touch anything remotely "political" on HN. No one has offered a single fact or counterpoint, but instead I've been attacked repeatedly, every benign comment is rapidly moderated down. Get a grip, partisans, and if you find it impossible to discuss something on your partisan talking radar without emotionally gravitating to a side, grow up.
And the reason that a scientist cannot speak directly to the media is because the media will always misreport their science. Thats not true. Unfortunately, reporters often misreport science. It is often the case that they do so because the read the abstract of a paper and misunderstand it. Or they may have an agenda. So it's great when they follow up with the scientist directly.
What you are then saying is that all scientists don't know how to communicate clearly with the media. Only someone skilled in the media should do so. What, pray tell, makes a media officer more qualified than the scientist to talk about the complex scientific work that the scientist has been doing?
Now an aside. Firstly, I don't know you. You assume that you know how the media truly works and I do not. You may well have inside information on this. But it seems unlikely.
Secondly, when I say that something sounds like garbage, I'm arguing forcefully that your substantial points are dubious. I probably should have said that, but in your case they really are so ridiculous that I used the word "garbage" because I actually do think what you are arguing has no redeeming qualities. However, I am not trying to censor you, and in fact I am only directly responding to your specific points. I make absolutely no assumptions about your person whatsoever. There is not one comment I have made about your political stance or your view on anything other than what you have said in your post.
You, on the other hand, have now stated that all those who have responded to you are partisan commentators who have "not offered a single fact or counterpoint", "find it impossible to discuss something on [their] partisan talking radar without emotionally gravitating to a side", and who should "grow up".
I'll let that speak for itself.
What are some examples?
It was never about the money.
You can disagree with the conservatives position on this. But to pretend it was an economic motive is disingenuous.
I'm not sure this is best forum for political conversations (or really anywhere online) and, at best, we can only make assumptions about motivations and reasoning beyond what we are told. My assumption is that is that census data makes it more difficult to govern based on opinion and therefore was less desirable to the Conservative government. But that is a pretty inflammatory opinion. However the reality is that the lack of census data over this period has caused significant damage to understanding of the country. And cancelling it has gives very little benefit in comparison.
Further if fields really were optional then it's not really "mandatory".
People seem to have a hard time distinguishing between "I disagree" and "is wrong".
Politics, by their very nature, are partisan. I disagreed with many of the previous policies (and agreed with others), but it's hard to point to things that were out and out wrong.
Along similar lines, consider the difference between "I don't want to do X" (or even "I won't do X") and "I don't think anyone should do X".
Or the difference between "I don't think anyone should do X" and "X should be illegal".
From my point of view, all three situations are analogous and the difference in each case is not just a matter of tone.
Whoa. That's a personal attack and you can't do it here.
Please post civilly and substantively, or not at all. Calling someone a "mouthpiece of evil" is obviously uncivil no matter how wrong they are, and the rest of the comment calls names ("Your narrative is laughable") and adds little of substance.
We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11629209 and marked it off-topic.
We should be fighting for the freedom to discuss any topic, not just a select few that matches up with the current narrative.
From the Telegraph 
> The BBC’s determination to give a balanced view has seen it pit scientists arguing for climate change against far less qualified opponents such as Lord Lawson who heads a campaign group lobbying against the government’s climate change policies. Andrew Montford, who runs the Bishop Hill climate sceptic blog, former children’s television presenter Johnny Ball and Bob Carter, a retired Australian geologist, are among the other climate sceptics that have appeared on the BBC.
I think I agree with the BBC's own comedian's take on this, which is to give each side time proportional to the amount of support they have from experts in the field. In other words, for every ten minutes of airtime for climate experts on climate change caused by humans, we can have 18 seconds, or 3% of climate skeptics speaking.
Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'
Everyone thinks they're the intellectuals. Even the people prescribing thalidomide to pregnant women. A strong sense of skepticism should be encouraged, not mocked, and appeals to authority should be seen as invalid on their face.
Consider how many 'experts' there are in numerology. Should we restrict a person from speaking out against them because he/she isn't an expert?
However, we prefer the settings we have now. We like our cities where they are, we like the sea level where it is, we like polar bears and the Great Barrier Reef the way they are.
Selfish? Yes! But it is relevant because we are the ones who are changing the climate right now! So we are entitled to have an opinion about the changes we are causing.
If you think it's not fair that China and India have to deal with climate change, I agree with you. But life is not fair. As you point out above, there's no greater purpose to the universe, it just is.
If China and India don't want massive civil unrest, they better work on the problem. If you think moving billions of people away from the coast is easier than reducing fossil fuel emissions, fine, we can examine that idea with data. But political control is not a useful yardstick. Government is an important tool no matter what the plan is.
I have no expressed opinion on whether the attempt to make China or India conform to green western politics is fair or not; but those two nations probably do, and that's what's really relevant. They'll most likely experience bouts of massive civil unrest without regard to local atmospheric quality.
After that, the Hadean is a period about 4 billion years ago named mainly because (to life) it was hellish, but otherwise relatively self-contained (in comparison to the epoch immediately preceding it when space debris continued to pummel the planet).
To say that it's a fact and needs no further study is not only anti-intellectual, it’s criminal.
I worked in academia for over a decade. Knowing what I know about the process and how much ego, money, and politics are involved, it really makes it difricult for me to believe any study isn't biased.
Thw entire system needs to be scrapped and started over.
That's not what you said in your now flagged statement. You specifically said "Climate change is a theory." Your statements are just not consistent. 97% climate scientists agree that climate warming in the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. Numerous conferences have similar conclusions of that. There is even a Wikipedia page for that.
> "To say that it's a fact and needs no further study is not only anti-intellectual, it’s criminal."
I never said no more further study. Do not put your words in me. I specifically said bring your own data, your own evidence, your experiments. Where is your data???
> "I worked in academia for over a decade."
So where is the data? Maybe you're just lazy with a crazy theory.
> "Thw entire system needs to be scrapped and started over."
Hahahahaha, good luck with that. Just like a 5 yo crying for the system not fair. It's just another inconsistent statement. First you said you're in academia, which is part the whole system, right? Then you said the entire system need to be scrapped, that includes you. You're still part of that system even you're a system-reject. You're simply anti-social.
You have the freedom to discuss any topic. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech, it's purely a policy issue. If you don't like how government policy affects research, then stop advocating for the government to be doing so much of the research.
Private-sector scientists were not muzzled; this wasn't a censorship issue at all. If you're speaking on your own dime, or that of an employer who's willing to have their name on it, then there's no problem.
But the Canadian government decided that they weren't willing to let the scientists that they employed speak in that capacity. That's purely a matter of employer-employee relationship.
I'm not saying it was the right thing to do. I'm saying that we know that government is politics. When we bring government into any enterprise, we also bring in the politics. If you dislike politics, then you should be advocating to keep the government and their politics out of other affairs as much as possible.
Researchers are perfectly happy for the might of the State to underpin coercive taxation, because it directly funds their jobs. But they complain loudly enough when a fraction of that might is used to constrain their freedom of expression.
I think the move to un-muzzle State scientists is a good thing. But I have little sympathy for their complaints, either, given the way they're funded.
Does every HN political post need a highly upvoted 'But the US is worse' cite-less snarking?
I don't recall all the details, but a large part of the push was centered around a politically connected company selling some education materials. And the research suggested that approach was not useful.
Now extend that to issues people actually care about and I suspect a lot of this stays under the radar.