OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Dec 12, 2016) - In a historic, precedent-setting victory for federal scientists and science generally, union negotiators with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) have successfully bargained with the Government of Canada to enshrine in their collective agreements the right of federal scientists to speak freely about science and their research.
"This is an enormous win not only for federal scientists but for all Canadians," said PIPSC President Debi Daviau. "Following the defeat last year of the Harper government, we vowed that no government should ever again silence science. This new provision will help ensure that remains the case now and in the future."
The new article will be contained in members' collective agreements and a Memorandum of Agreement appended that establishes a framework for the joint development of broad scientific integrity policies and guidelines. The new article states: "Employees shall have the right to express themselves on science and their research, while respecting the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector adopted on April 2, 2012, without being designated as an official media spokesperson."
Under the previous Harper government, reports of muzzled federal scientists had grown commonplace following the introduction of overly restrictive communications policies. News stories reported scientists unable to confirm even simple information such as snowfall patterns. In 2013, a report by PIPSC titled The Big Chill found that, faced with a departmental decision or action that could harm public health, safety or the environment, nearly 9 out of 10 federal scientists surveyed (86%) did not believe they could share their concerns with the public or media without censure or retaliation from their department. The concerns gave rise to widespread protests and a call to preserve scientific integrity within government through, among other things, collectively bargained provisions enshrining the right of scientists to speak.
"Governments and government policies come and go," added Daviau. "But the right of Canadians to unbiased scientific information from their own scientists should survive both. At a time when the United States is at renewed risk of turning its back on science and evidence-based public policy, it is essential that government scientists in Canada and other countries be assured safeguards that protect their right to speak and the public's right to know."
PIPSC represents over 55,000 public service professionals, including approximately 15,000 federal scientists, engineers and researchers.
Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter (@pipsc_ipfpc)