The organization formerly known as the American Association for the Advancement of Science is holding its annual meeting in Vancouver, Canada. (A first step at global hegemony? I hope not.) One of the panels in the communication category focuses on the issue of Canadian government scientists not being allowed to speak to the press without clearance – clearance that often never comes. It’s not a new concern, and I think Tweets like this will become perennial.
As I noted last year, I think that access to the papers, and perhaps to the research data itself, mitigates the need to speak to the scientists. In the Canadian cases I am familiar with, the papers are available, and often co-authors as well. I do find it interesting that the scientific integrity policy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is cited as the benchmark policy.
One of the speakers from the panel referenced above is with the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is concerned with corporate interference with science (the modifier strikes me as counterproductive, but I don’t work for them). They recently released a report (summary also available) indicating that not much has changed in terms of interference with science.
This reinforces the conclusions of a similar report in 2010, which suggested that rank and file government scientists don’t feel all that differently in the current administration compared to the previous one. The report’s recommendations are pretty heavy on transparency, which is arguably not a strong emphasis of the Obama Administration’s emphasis on scientific integrity.
Speaking of which, that project continues to stumble toward relevancy. Presidential science adviser John Holdren posted on Wednesday that agencies will have until March 30 to release “their final policies or their latest draft versions.” Ruminate over that last phrase. So, at a point that will be over three years since this initiative was announced, an agency can still manage to NOT have a final policy. Whatever teeth their might have been in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate national scientific integrity policy have decayed further.
Also absent from Dr. Holdren’s post is any reference to OSTP’s own policy, and whether or not that office will have any oversight of scientific integrity policies in other agencies. I am not optimistic by this absence. But I am no longer surprised.