Canada’s Commitment to Open Science
Canadians are best served by open, accountable and transparent government that builds trust in public institutions. In that spirit, it is important that we continually and collectively stress the importance of scientists in the Government of Canada speaking freely about their work.
The results of the recent survey on scientific integrity by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) indicate some progress has been made in this regard. However, we were concerned to see that half of government scientists still feel they can't openly discuss their work. Culture change takes time and it appears that, in some areas, we need to do more to reinforce our commitment. Too many of our public sector scientists and researchers feel that they cannot fully engage with each other and with Canadians on matters related to their research expertise.
So we wanted to send this joint letter to underscore to all those who practice science in the Government that we stand firmly behind the principle that you can discuss your important work with each other and with Canadians, and will work to create more opportunities for you to do so.
This is not just talk. Together, the Government and PIPSC concluded collective agreements that enshrine this right, further reinforcing the ability of scientists to express themselves in the area of their expertise. TBS and PIPSC are also developing departmental scientific integrity policies to further entrench scientists' and researchers' ability to communicate publicly about their work.
This has been an ongoing work in progress over the past two and a half years. The re-instatement of the long form census, as recommended by PIPSC, was an early and important step to re-establishing evidence-based decision-making in an open and transparent environment. In the spring of 2016, we welcomed a modernized Directive on the Management of Communications, fostering greater openness, transparency and accountability, and clearly stating that subject-matter experts, including scientists, may speak publicly on their own areas of expertise and need not be explicitly designated to do so.
And in August 2016, letters went out to all Ministers and departments to reiterate the commitment to ensuring government scientists are allowed to speak publicly about their work.
Last fall, the Government appointed, and PIPSC welcomed, Canada's new Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer. She has been asked to examine the issue of scientific integrity within the federal public service with the intention of bringing greater harmony, transparency and clarity about how scientists can communicate their work to Canadians. Dr. Nemer is also actively encouraging federal researchers to share their results with confidence and pride.
The Government has also recently announced significant additional investments to make basic science a priority, including $540 million for the National Research Council and significant investment for new and renewed federal research infrastructure. Together we will work to continue to rebuild federal public science capacity.
We share a common goal: federal scientists sharing their publicly funded expertise and research with an engaged and informed citizenry. We intend to uphold the freedom scientists must have to share their ideas, express their views and speak publicly about their work without fear of reprisal.
Be assured that we have the patience and perseverance to make this pledge to federal scientists a reality. Strong support for science can make a very real difference to the people in our communities, to our environment, our health, our economy, and our future prosperity.
Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
President of the Treasury Board
President of PIPSC
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