Following Canada's Bad Example, Now UK Wants To Muzzle Scientists And Their Inconvenient Truths

from the non-appliance-of-science dept

Techdirt has been following for a while Canada’s moves to stop scientists from speaking out about areas where the facts of the situation don’t sit well with the Canadian government’s dogma-based policies. Sadly, it looks like the UK is taking the same route. It concerns a new code for the country’s civil servants, which will also apply to thousands of publicly-funded scientists. As the Guardian reports:

Under the new code, scientists and engineers employed at government expense must get ministerial approval before they can talk to the media about any of their research, whether it involves GM crops, flu vaccines, the impact of pesticides on bees, or the famously obscure Higgs boson.

The fear — quite naturally — is that ministers could take days before replying to requests, by which time news outlets will probably have lost interest. As a result of this change, science organizations have sent a letter to the UK government, expressing their “deep concern” about the code. A well-known British neurobiologist, Sir Colin Blakemore, told the Guardian:

“The real losers here are the public and the government. The public lose access to what they consider to be an important source of scientific evidence, and the government loses the trust of the public,” Blakemore said.

Not only that, by following Canada’s example, the British government also makes it more likely that other countries will do the same, which will weaken science’s ability to participate in policy discussions around the world — just when we need to hear its voice most.

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Comments on “Following Canada's Bad Example, Now UK Wants To Muzzle Scientists And Their Inconvenient Truths”

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36 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

To lose something, you must first have it

“The real losers here are the public and the government. The public lose access to what they consider to be an important source of scientific evidence, and the government loses the trust of the public,” Blakemore said.

To lose the trust of the public, one would first be required to have the trust of the public, so the government doesn’t seem to be ‘losing’ anything here.

The fear — quite naturally — is that ministers could take days before replying to requests, by which time news outlets will probably have lost interest.

A slight delay and easily distracted press should be the least of their worries regarding this change. Instead, what they should be concerned about is, ‘What happens when a bit of research happens to contradict the position of the one you need to get approval from? Or contradicts the statements or position of one of his ‘friends’? Or claims made by a high ranking politician?

If a government official says X is true, and research into the matter produces evidence that shows that claim to be false, how eager do you believe they’ll be to have that research being made public?

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: To lose something, you must first have it

It depends who you consider to be a ‘government official’, eh.

For decades, many Canadian government (and government-funded) scientist and ‘officials’ had the respect of the Canadian public, and their occasional forays into the newspaper headlines were usually stories of them speaking out against politicians’ lies. The smarter politicians just knew it was best to not interfere.

Witness Sheila Fraser, Jennifer Stoddard, and many, many scientists (do you remember the fight they led against rBST?. They proudly wore the label of Public Service Employee. Nope, I’m not one of them.

The Harper government considers publicly-funded science to be 1) counter-productive to their world view; 2) the property of the Conservative Party (AKA “Canada’s Government” in so many of their TV ads). So they don’t permit them to speak. Just what are they afraid of?

rBST, approved in USA, not in Canada:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/vet/faq/growth_hormones_promoters_croissance_hormonaux_stimulateurs-eng.php
Of course, the Harper Government claims to be open and transparent, but…
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/home-accueil/rto-tor/index-eng.php
..a whole bunch of Canadian Scientists beg to differ:
http://scientistsfortherighttoknow.wildapricot.org/timeline

Ismail says:

Re: Re:

The so-called Conservatives or Republicans don’t have a corner on the censorship market. Any institution is capable of squelching any new information that threatens its own agenda.

The “Conservative/Liberal” or “Republican/Democrat” dichotomy is a false one. In real issues that affect real people, there are seldom any differences between the two camps.

peter (user link) says:

Re: who won war?

Yes,likely west won but Hitler never intended to win so he sent poorly clothed soldiers to fight in Russia as did Napoleon.Hitler allowed his army in stalingrad to be surrounded and cut off from help so lost complete army.He escaped to Argentina with Eva.He was jewish related to Rothchilds.Holocaust-what holocaust-in Ukraine by Stalin.millions starved on purpose.Stalin was jewish-100%.

BernardoVerda says:

As a Canadian...

… I used to be proud that Canada was a “world leader”. I’m ashamed that this practice hasn’t been brought to heel long ago (or at least, by the last election).

I don’t care what your natural political affiliations happen to be… no voter with a lick of common sense should be voting for a government that has clearly demonstrated a pronounced willingness to brush aside verifiable facts it doesn’t like, implemented policies to suppress those facts (and credible sources of the same) — and confirmed its unwavering commitment to continue such a strategy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: As a Canadian...

In October the tide could reverse massively. I’m not a Trudeaumaniac, I’d rather have Mulcair as PM, but that’d be more difficult. But just the thought of Conservatives going back to minority where Harper will likely get a stroke from being denied over and over like from 2006 to 2011, but say Trudeau as PM and Mulcair still as Official Opposition, even the hidden centre-right ideas of Trudeau couldn’t be hidden for long.

Also, whether you like it or not, it’s better when the BQ has more than 4 seats and more like 54 (the usual), keeps any federal gov in check.

Anonymous Coward says:

We should thank Politics and Business for clouding our minds once more.

Although I’m sure that some religious fundamentalists will also benefit from the decrease in science coverage in the media:
After all how can humanity be destroyed in Ragnarok and the end time prophecies fulfilled if humans leave the Earth. /s

Yeah, tried to make a joke without being insensitive to any current religion.

GEMont (profile) says:

The Fascist's Handbook

The Corporation
===============
Rule #3002344
=============

A wise and well informed public is the most dangerous thing a corporate government can face, and must be prevented at all costs – using the tax-payer’s money of course.

1.(a) – Science is far too dangerous to be allowed to fall into the hands of the paying public and must by all means possible, be prevented.

Few things are as important as preventing the paying public from becoming aware of the means and methods that science affords the Corporation to exploit the paying public.

Science also has the distinct potential to enable the paying public’s ability to perceive ways of throwing off the yoke of corporate control and enacting legal and technical means of preventing the mass exploitation we enjoy currently – as they have in the past – and thus ranks first among the many aspects of civilization that must be stringently kept from their grasp by any and all means possible.

Science must serve the state only, as the state must serve the Corporation only.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re: The Fascist's Handbook

Actually, because the entire construct is nothing more than an exercise in:

“What would I do if I were a billionaire asshole and had hold of the reigns of power and was immune to prosecution for my misdeeds?”

… there is almost an unlimited number of situations that can be covered, like:

Section 332
Chapter 12
Rule # 665889

Medication: the practice of manufacturing sick people by selling them poisons that shut down body functions that react to disease, rather then eradicate the actual disease, or of prescribing a drug which includes a counter agent that actually creates the problem the “drug” is supposed to cure.

In this manner, we can make them “feel” fewer symptoms while at the same time, destroying bodily functions that prevent other maladies, or insuring their lifelong need for the drug by counteracting the drug as a side effect, or by including in the drug, compounds that create entirely new side effects that can be then treated using even more “medication”

Example.

For those with C.O.P.D., prescribe inhalants that contain a mucus antagonist that will shut down their body’s mucus manufacture – leading to myriad future dysfunctions – but make the inert carrier of the antagonist, that the victim breathes deeply into their lungs, a mucus-making sugar like lactose.

The I-Ching calls it the Advantages of Adversity.

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