The ties between industry and experts receive a great deal of attention (most recently in these articles about influenza experts, as per this article in The Australian and this piece that I wrote in yesterday’s Crikey bulletin).
But we hear far less about institutional conflicts of interest.
In this vein, NatureNews has a very interesting article about how the Canadian Government is suppressing scientific evidence and debate.
Kathryn O’Hara, professor of science broadcast journalism at Carleton University and president of the Canadian Science Writers’ Association, writes that a policy enacted in March stipulates that all federal scientists must get pre-approval from their minister’s office before speaking to journalists who represent national or international media.
She says: “The pre-approval process requires time-consuming drafting of questions and answers, scrutinized by as many as seven people, before a scientist can be given the go-ahead by the minister’s staff. This is to spare the minister ‘any surprises’. What kind of politician needs that sort of pampering? And what kind of journalist submits questions for a scientist to a ministerial clearing house? This message manipulation shows a disregard for the values and virtues of both journalism and science, and subverts timely disclosure and access to scientific data.”
O’Hara concludes: “Access to scientific evidence that informs policy is not a luxury. It is an essential part of our right to know.”
The article is worth a read, and not only for those with an interest in health and science policy. It also covers climate change matters.