I suspect as this government shutdown continues, I will shift more of my posts to activities in other countries as well as various items I’ve filed for later consideration. Arguably the (in)ability to access U.S. government data online has been the biggest impact on me so far. But this is Day Three.
An item that fits both categories is the continuing effort of Canada’s scientific community to combat the efforts of the current government to restrict the flow of information to the public. I’ve posted about this before, mainly to complain about the rhetoric around muzzling. I don’t think it’s as bad as the ‘war on science’ meme that Chris Mooney let loose like an even less thought-out creation of Dr. Frankenstein. But as I’ve written before, a government restricting how its employees communicates with the press and public is a different beast than restricting how non-employees (scientists and otherwise) interact with the press and the public.
There were a series of protests in mid-September against governmental policies that restrict the release of government information. Deborah Blum has a roundup of coverage (pretty much none in the U.S.) of the events over at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker. I will note that this series of protests (in 17 Canadian cities, something all of the fulmination over Bush Administration policies on science communication never generated) did attract the attention of a member of The New York Times editorial board.
But there are two things that make it likely that U.S. scientists are unlikely to give much support to their Canadian colleagues or consider that the communications situation in the U.S. could get as bad as it is in Canada. One of them is top of mind, the current budgetary clusterbomb. The other is the notion that the change in Presidential administrations managed to ‘solve the problem’ of having political influence preventing or mangling the communication of scientific information to the public. Rank and file opinion suggests this isn’t the case. There’s such a thin line between political interference and the intersection of values and knowledge. There will always be breaks to manage.