OUR VIEW: Scientific freedom of speech is not just a right, it’s a job description

We say: Federal scientists need to be able to work without interference

Federal public scientists want the protection of their right to speak freely enshrined in their collective agreements.

First of all, before we get into anything, let’s take a moment to remember that freedom of speech is their right as citizens of a democracy and specifically their rights as Canadians. But aside from that, there is a great public interest in government-paid and/or funded scientists being able to exercise their right to freedom of speech. In fact, beyond being a right, it should be part of their job description.

There is some room for confidentiality in the process of disseminating information by scientists who are specifically hired to find out the truth of things. You can’t have them just blasting their mouths off. The same standards of accuracy, honesty and corroboration should apply to their opinions as they do to their research and the publicizing of that research.

But as the ultimate employer of these scientists, the taxpayers own their research and therefore have a right to know everything about it. They answer to the citizens of this country not to the politicians.

Truth in science is more important today than ever. We here on the West Coast know that as well as anybody as we weigh conflicting claims regarding crucial fish science and the environment. We need to be able to depend on our taxpayer-funded scientists to tell us what the facts are.

The Stephen Harper Conservatives have done a disservice to the citizens of  this country by muzzling scientists and hacking scientific research to bits. The information researchers uncover belong to us and our public scientists need to feel safe enough to express their informed opinions.

What’s more, publicly-funded science should be neutral and unbiased. No corporate interference is acceptable. This is not science for sale. It’s science for the public good.