Unmuzzling begins as Fisheries and Oceans scientist speaks up

Unmuzzling begins as Fisheries and Oceans scientist speaks up

A government scientist in Dartmouth, N.S. sounds as if the unmuzzling of research makes it easier to breath a sigh of relief.

"Our directive is now, when it comes to interacting with the media, it's yes we do it," said Alain Vezina with a laugh. Vezina is the director of science programs for Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the Maritimes.

"They can respond to media directly without necessarily going through the communications sector, without getting pre-approval by their managers and senior management."

Vezina compares the last several years under the previous Conservative government as being "a bit too cumbersome sometimes."

The new Liberal government has pledged to allow government scientists more freedom to speak about their research.

Vezina says while his department conducted a fair amount of interviews and proactive work with the media, there were many missed opportunities because of delays in approval.

"Now we are minimizing this," said Vezina. "Now the only reason why we'd have a delay is because the scientist is not available."

He said it's crucial to connect the public with work scientists do.

"Whenever we connect with the public, it builds understanding of what we do and it also builds support for continuing the work and science, and for people to understand how science connects to the issues they live everyday."

He says his scientists won't be flying off the cuff with reporters anytime soon. The most vital role they play, he says, is to to uphold the impartiality of science by sticking to the facts.

"They still have a responsibility to talk about their science work and focus on that," Vezina said. "We are now putting the responsibility on them. And we're showing confidence that they'll perform well and we support them."