Last month, I tried to interview a government of Canada scientist named David Tarasick. Specifically, I wanted to ask Dr. Tarasick about a study he completed in 2011 on an “unprecedented ozone hole” that had opened over Northern Canada. But that’s not the whole story.
I also wanted to talk to Dr. Tarasick because I knew that Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent and his office had kept Dr. Tarasick from speaking with journalists about his research in the past. Knowing that Canada’s media relations people have kept journalists from speaking with tax-payer-funded scientists even when their stories were conspicuously apolitical, I thought that it would be interesting to see how difficult it would be to speak to a scientist whose name has become synonymous with government censorship.
Turns out it was very hard.
Instead of speaking to Dr. Tarasick, I got Danny Kingsberry, a stifling “Media Relations” person with Environment Canada whose job is to be bad at his job. (For legal reasons I should mention that that last sentence is just my opinion, which I derived–you know–from facts). In accordance with Environment Canada’s 2007 Media Relations Policy Danny intervened in my request to speak with Dr. Tarasick and, ultimately, made the decision that the interview was not going to happen. Long after my deadline had passed, Danny emailed me a written list of answers to my questions for Tarasick. He wouldn’t tell me if his answers came from a scientist or a media relations person. The truth is, I suppose, that we have to assume that all government of Canada science is coauthored by Public Relations people at this point.
On November 27th, I filed an Access to Information Act request to see all of Danny’s emails to his colleagues about me. I should see them by December 27th. Merry Christmas?
You can find out more about the Harper Government’s politicization of federal science on our program, “Silencing the Scientists.”