Maragert Munro on the days of yore when Fed'l scientists could speak

She brings up some interesting points. The first is that, as people change jobs, we have fewer and fewer media officers who understand how information can flow freely. What happens then? The new breed of media officer will have to learn how to do something totally foreign to them. This will be bad.

As debate and discussion grows about reopening the lines of communication, it is important to remember just how accessible Canada’s research agencies used to be. But given the attrition in the media and in federal labs, there soon will be few journalists or scientists left who remember when information flowed freely.

Yes, governments have always tried to control what scientists said on hot-button issues such as crashing Atlantic cod stocks. But, until the Harper government’s recent changes, it was a much more open and trusting system.

The second point is that the gov't is shooting itself in the foot. Okay, in many many ways, but consider this: as requests for information are turned down, the story changes from the science to the silencing. Then the reporter files an Access to Information request. ATIs typically require a huge amount of man-hours to process and, as Mike de Souza noted at an Evidence for Democracy event, the gov't tries so hard to remove any actual information from them that the reporters has to file very specific requests, and often many of them. So the burden on "the system" increases further, and the lack of trust on both sides increases.

There is no way that this is a good thing.

Life will be so very much easier if the scientists could talk to the reporters directly and answer a handful of question honestly. Everybody's time will be better spent, we'll get better reporting, and because a level of trust will be built the reporters are less likely to be looking for "what are they hiding?" After all, scientists prefer to share information - that is, after all, what it is for.