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Canadian Bureacracy Can't Answer Simple Question: What's This Study With NASA?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the how-thick-is-your-thicket? dept.

Canada 164

Saint Aardvark writes "It seemed like a pretty simple question about a pretty cool topic: an Ottawa newspaper wanted to ask Canada's National Research Council about a joint study with NASA on tracking falling snow in Canada. Conventional radar can see where it's falling, but not the amount — so NASA, in collaboration with the NRC, Environment Canada and a few universities, arranged flights through falling snow to analyse readings with different instruments. But when they contacted the NRC to get the Canadian angle, "it took a small army of staffers— 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen's request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and "massage" its text." No interview was given: "I am not convinced we need an interview. A few lines are fine. Please let me see them first," says one civil servant in the NRC emails obtained by the newspaper under the Access to Information act. By the time the NRC finally sorted out a boring, technical response, the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes."

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Bureacracy sucks but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39751941)

historically the alternative is Somalia.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (-1, Troll)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752901)

What took NASA 15 minutes to answer took 51 of Canada's top bureaucrats dunno how long, with how many conference call, back and forth emails and such to come out with a really boring official reply

Funny you brought out Somalia - and yes, in a sense, when comparing to the United States of America, Canada does look like Somalia

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (5, Insightful)

slippyblade (962288) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752985)

You've solved the dilemma right there. It took NASA *scientists* 15 minutes to do it where it took 51 *bureaucrats*. That is the definition of bureaucracy, the obfuscation of information. Seems they are doing their jobs perfectly.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753097)

You've solved the dilemma right there. It took NASA *scientists* 15 minutes to do it where it took 51 *bureaucrats*. That is the definition of bureaucracy, the obfuscation of information. Seems they are doing their jobs perfectly.

Also notice how the numbers from both sources form a perfect palidrome: 15 51 (1551) and 51 15 (5115)... those geniuses at the National Research Council (NRC) knew that National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would only require 15 minutes but the mathematician at NRC has a palidrome fetish so he/she delayed until 51 people had handled the request in part or in whole. Oh, 1551 + 5115 equal 6666 which compared to 666 is the mark of the Super Beast not just the Beast. And 6666 itself is a palidrome...my goodness the good little bureaucrats at NRC are truly astounding in their revelations.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (2, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753799)

Right, now you just need to learn how to spell palindrome...

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753993)

The "n" was promoted last week, to Senior Vice Manager of Golf.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (5, Informative)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753431)

It's worse than that.

The current government in Canada has threatened any scientist that talks to the media with censure. If they say anything that's "outside message", they lose their funding.

Too many links to list, here's a google search. [google.ca]

The message is "there are no environmental concerns in Canada."

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753759)

My wife and I are scientists, we have dealt with publication and dissemination issues here, including some on sensitive environmental and health issues. Having said that, your statement is pure neckbeard FUD. The 'censoring' going on here in Canada isn't stopping pure science from happening at all. It is simply meant to stop FUD spreading BS from social 'scientists' who are looking for funding. The problem is that everyone looking for funding has gotten on the "think of the children/environment/elderly" emotional circlejerk bandwagon. Honestly, as a physicist, I am angry as hell about people getting the public riled up about WIFI causing cancer, etc. I can truly appreciate why many 'scientists' aren't supposed to use the media to drum up support. Let them publish some real findings in a peer reviewed paper, then they can do what they like.

I know this will be labeled as a troll. But honestly, fuck off with your socialist propaganda bullshit.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39754017)

Let them publish some real findings in a peer reviewed paper, then they can do what they like.

No, they can't. Read the links provided. One of them is for a Canadian scientist whose work was published in Nature (not some bullshit 'social-science' journal). Reporters were interested. Some of her findings were politically uncomfortable for the ruling party. The government muzzled her totally for over half a year. Left so long, the story cooled down, and the reporters were no longer interested.

I know this will be labeled as a troll. But honestly, fuck off with your socialist propaganda bullshit.

Well SOMEONE is trapped in the right-wing authoritarian mindset...

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39754067)

The reporters were fully capable of reporting on the findings in the journal. What is the problem? Oh, they weren't able to get the spin they were hoping for?

As a libertarian, I think that the right is just as 'authoritarian' as the left is. I just abhor the idea that someone uses the media to further their agenda, left or right.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (5, Insightful)

eddy the lip (20794) | more than 2 years ago | (#39754027)

Ordinarily there's little point in replying to an AC, but someone condescended to give you a mod point, so what the hell.

The idea that filtering news stories through political filters is to protect Canadians from bad information and those self centered, socialist scientists is, in a word, crap.

The Harper government has made it very clear - explicitly, actually, in government directives - that scientists who receive federal funding are not to the talk to the media without approval. This has been widely reported. They have cracked down hardest on environmental scientists (can't admit that companies are causing damage in the oil sands, shipping dangerous asbestos products, or damaging fisheries) and statisticians (you don't need data when you already know what policies you want to implement.) I'm sure you can think of other countries that have required their scientists to seek government approval before speaking.

It's a travesty, and one that any self respecting scientist sees for what it is - political manipulation to serve a cause that is neither left nor right wing, but corporatist and self-serving. Of course, you would realize this if you if you were actually a scientist.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39754137)

My wife is an environmental scientist, she has dealt with the exact policies you have described, particularly with regards to (publicly funded) cancer data, some of it relating to the oil and gas industries in Alberta. I can fully appreciate the fact that the government wants to get the facts on what is happening before some 'scientist' with an agenda gets ahold of some 'scientific' correlation, and turns it into a causation; causing public panic.

You speak as if the oil sands and asbestos are closed cases. This tells me who is the real scientist here. If you have assumed the conclusion, you might as well just excuse yourself from rational discussion. Rationally, this sort of axiomatic discussion should be removed from public discourse, at least until both sides can fully explore the issue (through peer review). Their is nothing corporatist or self serving about it, in fact, those with the agenda seek to use publicly funded data to further their own forlorn conclusions. Conclusions based upon nothing more than political dogma.

Re:Bureacracy sucks but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753027)

Funny you brought out Somalia - and yes, in a sense, when comparing to the United States of America, Canada does look like Somalia

I was not aware Somalia offers tax-payer-funded healthcare to its citizens. Warlords and pirates were the extent of my understanding of that despotic country.

Welcome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752003)

to Ottawa.

Re:Welcome... (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753155)

You forgot to kick someone in the chest.

Harper has destroyed our government.. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752015)

The Prime Ministers office is obsessed with US-style 'controlling the message'. No public statement may be made by anyone employed by the government without approval of a political officer. This has even recently been extended to the RCMP, and has affected publicly funded science for a long time. No information from our government is free of political meddling and spin designed to further the agenda of the Conservative party - which cares about only one thing: Being re-elected forever.

Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

Two Words (2)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752083)

The Prime Ministers office is obsessed with US-style 'controlling the message'. No public statement may be made by anyone employed by the government without approval of a political officer. This has even recently been extended to the RCMP, and has affected publicly funded science for a long time. No information from our government is free of political meddling and spin designed to further the agenda of the Conservative party - which cares about only one thing: Being re-elected forever.

Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

Practice snowjob.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752339)

"US styled" controlling the message?

Maybe you mean China, North Korea, or Iran?

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752413)

Nope.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752497)

The American propaganda system is the best in the world.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (4, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752545)

At least according to American propaganda it is!

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752737)

USA! USA! USA!

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (-1, Troll)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752507)

"US-style 'controlling the message'."

Because the US government is the only global entity that tries to control a party line? Lol

I dunno why but it seems like Canadians have been saying stupider and stupider shit recently. Maybe it's all related to the NHL playoffs....

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (5, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752581)

Because the US government is the only global entity that tries to control a party line? Lol

Other governments do the same, but the genius of the US system of "controlling the message" is that people living in the free world will openly defend it.

The lesson that politicians learned of Vietnam wasn't "war is bad", it was "never let a reporter tell the truth about war". Embedded journalists FTW.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (1)

mcneely.mike (927221) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753095)

It's because our beer is better! During teh nhl playhops, we det to grink lots and lots, eh!

'reminds me... 'Rover, gemme anotha beer... gooddoggie, goo'boy'
I HAM CANAD... (HIC!) CANAD... I LIVE NORTH OF USA.......

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752569)

"...giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada)."

It's common practice for government here in the U.S.

Interestingly, my CAPTCHA is Outrage. Too bad our citizens are never outraged at governmental lies.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (4, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752579)

US-style 'controlling the message'.

Quoth TFS:

the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes.

Maybe it's not as "US-style" as you think it is.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752897)

Its been a "US-style" for sometime:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird [wikipedia.org]
Its just Canada is more clumsy in its handling of a simple questions.
The US has always been proud of science and getting the press to see its hardware, feel good weather, nature studies.
Gets the smart kids interested in science and makes them trusting of the Military–industrial complex

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753411)

The US is just better at it. Harper controls everything, even information about falling snow. In theUS they know that you can let the scientists talk about snow. But not WMDs.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (5, Interesting)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39754075)

The US is just better at it. Harper controls everything, even information about falling snow. In theUS they know that you can let the scientists talk about snow. But not WMDs.

Harper is basically a climate change denier in a position of power. If snow studies indicate climate change, he'll have to suppress that sort of information. It's why he's cut budgets on Environment Canada, muzzled all government scientists (all requests to speak with one must go through a political officer first). Heck, there was one investigating some virus on salmon, and people were denied requests to talk to the scientist involved (it was interesting).

He's basically trying to sell off all the oil he can as quickly as possible - why, I don't know. The price of oil isn't going down, so it seems silly to sell so much now when selling it later can command much more money. (We aren't going to give up our oil habit that easily, but we'll transition to other fuels for our cars. And oil will become a hard to get speciality fuel - people want their old-timey muscle cars and the like).

Hell, he wants to ship Canada's oil to Asia. Why not keep it here, refine it here, and then make our gas prices cheap? Gas's $1.40 a litre (roughly $5.50/gal). And you want to sell our oil that could be made into gas locally to lower gas prices?

Hell, why not ship it eastward to the eastern refineries?

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752633)

The WGA just does not want to be responsible for giving out false information. Can't blame them for that.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752729)

"US-style"? I beg your pardon.

American governments can give false information to the public with total impunity. http://www.salon.com/2007/09/06/bush_wmd/ [salon.com]

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752769)

Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

If giving false info to the public is certain death to a government then "controlling the message" sounds like a rational response and the panicked flurry of emails in TFA is explained. I'd love it if US bureaucrats were as afraid of lying to the public as Canadian ones apparently are.

Not surprising. (2)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752843)

That's not surprising at all.

Remember Palin dissing 'fruit fly' research. It's stupid, right? Or some other candidate laughing about volcano research (right before the Eyjafjallajokull eruption).

It's no wonder that scientists don't wish to give extra ammunition to this crowd by poorly worded answers.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752979)

Actually, snow is a precious resource in Canada, we measure it in troy ounces. Its a little trickier to convert back and fourth with metric.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753125)

Actually, snow is a precious resource in Canada, we measure it in troy ounces. Its a little trickier to convert back and fourth with metric.

Especially during the brief summer season.

Re:Harper has destroyed our government.. (1)

lurker1997 (2005954) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753295)

While I despise Harper as much as the rest (at least the majority) of Canadians, this story I think has more to do with the general setup of our government bureaucracy. In Canada, a significant role of government is to provide a kind of welfare for educated people by employing them do do effectively nothing but slow down the machinery of government. What this means is that when a decision must be made, or a request answered by government, instead of one person doing the job (even is it is a simple request for non-sensitive information), twenty people need to craft and vet the government's respose. In some political cases, it does have to do with message control, but more often than not, it has to do with creating twenty jobs.

Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (5, Insightful)

machinder (527464) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752029)

There is no mystery here. The Harper government has been suppressing any discussion of environment and climate topics that even come anywhere near to talking about climate change. Scientists and agencies are legitimately afraid for their funding and their jobs.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752157)

Scientists and agencies are legitimately afraid for their funding and their jobs.

Good. Making ammo for statists is not an honorable occupation.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752165)

It's the 'Harper Regime', I'm afraid.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (4, Informative)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753021)

While Harper is originally from the Toronto area, he moved to Calgary, Alberta a long time ago and that is where he began his professional career and started into politics. He has an Alberta hard right political leaning. (That is Alberta, land of oil and tar sands.) And that is hard right as in Alberta's new 'Wild Rose' party that looks nearly set to beat the provincial conservative party in an election in the next few weeks. In Canada, normally even the conservatives are to the left of the Democrats in the U.S. Lately with Harper, they are approaching GW Bush republicans. The Wild Rose Party definitely is on a par with Bush, even if they may have to support things they find distasteful in order to get elected. Harper and the WRP share the same roots and ideology.

What they also share is the backing of the big oil companies, most of whose headquarters in Canada are located where else, in Alberta. Home of oil reserves, natural gas out the waazoo, and a very large chunk of the oil errr, tar sands (a large portion also falls under Saskatchewan's jurisdiction). A lot of the backing money for the conservative party also comes from the same source. And whereas the Liberal and NDP base is in the central/east and Quebec, the conservative base is in the west, primarily in Alberta. This is why Harper does everything he can to protect big oil and supports the anti-global warming faction as much as he can. He and his base are also fairly high on the Christian fundamentalist scale. That is, his base, not everyone who voted for him.

He has evidenced over the past number of years a strong anti science agenda. He has fired scientists for talking to the press and IIRC even for publishing papers his government doesn't like. He has barred scientists from the National Research Council climate research from attending a number of conferences including United Nations climate conferences. This would be equivalent to barring experts from NOAA or NASA weather experts from attending. He even managed to find a way to bar other members of the government, including opposition parties from attending. When they were caught out in some lie, his minister of the environment had the gall to tell the opposition parties that if they wanted to make a certain point, they should have attended the conference they were barred from going to.

Any time something threatens the oil sands projects, he mobilizes his forces like going to war. He wants to sell oil for his supporters at almost any cost. So why didn't he flip out more when the pipeline through the states didn't pan out? It's because it is ultimately not that big a deal for him or his benefactors. He has an 'out'. He was already in the process and since then has already passed legislation that will make ramming a pipeline to the west coast through B.C. a done deal. If U.S. politicians won't back a path to a market, he has a majority in the house in Canada, which makes him a defacto dictator for five years able to pass any laws he wants (and yes, when the Liberals were in majority we had glorious leader Chretien). Then he will sell China as much oil as they can buy. AFWIW, any law within reason. If any leader with a majority tried to force through legislation to give himself an extra longer term or something, the Queen or the Governor General can boot him out. Hasn't happened before but it's why we still give those other guys the power to do so... just in case. And at least when I was in the military, we swore allegiance to the Queen and Canada. The PM is not the CIC.

Given all this, it is not surprising that the people he has running the NRC now are doing a superb job running interference when any press... any press asks questions even remotely connected to the weather.

Why did Canadians elect them? Mainly because the Liberals and NDP were fighting over who could be the most left leaning party in the country. That left no middle ground. But the middle ground people didn't want to lean that far left so they had no choice but bite the bullet and vote for the right. But there were other things too. Many people were sick of how the unions have held the country hostage for so long (from the press you would think that is still the case). Same goes for crime. Same goes for taxes. The pendulum was left for so long it has swung the other way now. One example is that they are passing a law so that when a store owner defends himself and his property from thieves, the retarded crown prosecutors won't throw the store owner in jail again Background: a store owner saw a serial thief who has stolen from him many time, been convicted and return again. When he called police they would never prioritize it and the guy would get away. One day after being violated by the thief again, he and a friend chased him down and held him for police. They charged the store owner with assault and forcible confinement, and the thief got his wrist slapped and walked away... after dozens of repeat offences. Eventually the jury cleared him, but soon after the crown prosecutors were at it again... they're going after another store owner as we speak. Prior governments wouldn't let people defend themselves. The other parties when they were in power did nothing to rectify this type of situation. It's these kinds of things that got the conservatives elected. Personally I wish they would pass castle doctrine laws.

And before anyone flames me for being a right winger, I am more of centre right. Except as I said there is no centrist party in Canada any more.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753177)

Funny that you use that specific example of the store owner being charged, considering it was actually the Olivia Chow of the NDP who tabled the legislation to change this. Unfortunately it was dropped due to the most recent election, and the issue is now only coming up again with the masala attack in Toronto.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (5, Funny)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753323)

Excuse me, but here in Alberta, we don't call them "tar sands". We prefer the term "freedom sands".

Vote wild boar! [wildboarparty.ca]

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (2)

Confusador (1783468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753527)

That just completely made my day, if only for "Saskatchewan threatens Alberta with weaponized gophers."

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (1, Insightful)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753537)

He has evidenced over the past number of years a strong anti science agenda. He has fired scientists for talking to the press and IIRC even for publishing papers his government doesn't like. He has barred scientists from the National Research Council climate research from attending a number of conferences including United Nations climate conferences. This would be equivalent to barring experts from NOAA or NASA weather experts from attending. He even managed to find a way to bar other members of the government, including opposition parties from attending. When they were caught out in some lie, his minister of the environment had the gall to tell the opposition parties that if they wanted to make a certain point, they should have attended the conference they were barred from going to.

Lets just post allegations without names and dates so no one can check the story What scientists were fired? What exact conference were scientists barred from? Hod did he "bar other members of the government" from attending and who were these other members? What lie were they caught in?

Actually barring opposition parties from being seen as speaking for the government is quite common. Would any party in power want to give the opposition an international platform?

If you want to make allegations then please be specific or it comes off as blatant bashing.

Re:Harper gov't has politicized the environment. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753811)

Like most survivors, Harper is not very consistent tactically. But he is consistent strategically, and always opposes the populist and hard-right elements within the conservative movement. It's why he disagreed so much with Preston Manning and left the Reform Party in 1997. Since winning the leadership of the Conservative Party in 2002, he has consistently dragged the Conservative Party to the centre, in the hopes of nudging the country to the right. He has been overly successful with the former, and perhaps not at all successful in the latter.

As someone who works as a scientist in Ottawa, I can tell you that Harper and his Conservative Party are not anti-science. They are however, very aware of the bias that had built up in Ottawa by near-hegemonic Liberal gov't in the 20th Century, whether in the courts, in the bureaucracy, or in the choices made about what we investigate as scientists. That was terrible for science. The Harper gov't has allowed the lifting of scientific taboos, and more chances to question paradigms, which has been most refreshing. The elements of the scientific community that benefited from the status quo complain to the media, who lap it up. Same as in any industry.

I'm probably well left of you, but I'm surprised that someone who calls themselves centre-right has bought the left's arguments about Harper. I don't.

I expected a Harper gov't to be hard-right, but while it wants to appear right, and trash talks like the right, it actually governs to the left of the old Progressive Conservatives, and left of the Chretien/Martin Liberal govt's too. It avoids social issues like the plague. Fiscally, it runs straight down the middle, only nominally conservative: spending grows faster than the economy, taxes get cut a bit but revenue still grows. Under the Conservatives, gov't grows even faster than under the Liberals, even after so-called austerity. They're not as free-market as the Liberals either, more than once killing int'l acquisitions, which the Liberals never dared. The fact that they'll defend an industry like oil & gas when the Liberals didn't is simply that the Liberals never took much interest, because they've had so few seats in the west for so long. It's not that the Conservatives are smart, it's that the Liberals were incredibly stupid on that file.

You can claim that the unwashed hard-right hordes want it differently, but if that's the case, then it's Harper that drags the Party to the centre. The Conservative Party pretty much now IS the mushy middle, and without a lot of longevity, will have achieved little because it is the least bold government in Canada since at least Diefenbaker. It's more like Mackenzie King's gov'ts in the 30s and 40s, making change more through erosion than evolution. Then again, it may be around long enough for erosion to be effective.

Security (0)

lazarus (2879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752053)

I'm sure there are going to be dozens posts about the evil conservative government and how they have all their ministries scared to say anything about anything. However, and despite all the cool stuff that the NRC does (like 3d scanners, heated concrete, etc), they do do a lot of top secret research. I'm not surprised that a request involving a foreign government organization was met with a bureaucratic response.

Here is a quick list [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca] of some of their best and most important work. Probably a much more interesting article than the fishing expedition of the Ottawa Citizen.

Re:Security (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752123)

I'm not surprised that a request...was met with a bureaucratic response.

FTFY

Re:Security (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752291)

It's SNOW. Fricking SNOW research. How in hockey sticks is that "top secret research"? And given that the "foreign government organization" was a partner in the research, how on Earth could that possibly pose a problem?

I don't care how evil or how wonderful you think our present government is. Your argument doesn't make a speck of sense.

The only part that does make sense is the general expectation of a bureaucratic response from a request to our government, and while that's always been an issue, it has reached truly epic proportions when it comes to requests related to science under the current government. It's so far beyond normal bureaucratic expectations that people around the world have started to notice that something is quite different.

Re:Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752793)

Maybe it was yellow snow?

Re:Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753149)

Maybe it was yellow snow?

More likely China White in the Arctic. The only way some politicians think the "natives" can be pacified.

Re:Security (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752925)

"Fricking SNOW" research is getting hot for the USA. They want a new ring of sensors and unmanned systems way up north.
http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/darpa-wants-ultimate-technology-sensor-network-monitor-vast-arctic [networkworld.com]
Assured Arctic Awareness
https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=6d24d0650fc1d4fa7c62a83bd41dff20&tab=core&_cview=0 [fbo.gov]

Scientists like to be precise (0)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752095)

Even the simplest things can be told incorrectly, and even the smallest error can get picked up by the media and blown out of proportion to either discredit the institute or spread ignorance. Communication is not as obvious as just telling what you are working on.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752145)

And politicians like to be vague. As they are the ones doing the messaging(and not scientists directly) one would expect this back and forth between staffers is not for the sake of clarity, but for the sake of obfuscation.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752167)

If the 11 staffers were scientists discussing science that would be one thing.

The article talks about how managers, a media analyst, and other senior officials spent considerable time "massaging" the message back and forth. Eventually they give a few lines about the number of flights, the number of instruments, and the number of government partners, but not a single word about snow.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752195)

Unfortunately, if TFA is to be believed, the waffling was on the part of 'communications' flacks, not actual scientists. To be sure, scientists are unlikely to be enthusiastic about being misquoted(though, if they've done anything high profile before, probably view it as inevitable, no matter How Slowly And Loudly They Explain Their Work With Small Words...); but it isn't even clear that the email chain manages to involve any scientists, let alone giving them the final word on their research.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (4, Informative)

canadian_right (410687) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752435)

The current Harper government has been in the news quite a bit lately for muzzling scientists. The Harper government seems obsessed with controlling information coming from any government agency.

Can't wait until he is turfed out.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (3, Insightful)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753265)

Can't wait until he is turfed out.

Have you ever noticed that when a new government takes power, it very rarely reverses the stupid policies and shameful legislation perpetrated by the previous one? Politicians beat their breasts and flap their gums endlessly about their predecessors' mistakes, but once in power they seldom rectify them. So yes, it'll be a great day when Harper is given the bum's rush he so richly deserves; but we'll still be stuck with all the regressive, secretive, power-mongering, privacy-raping, freedom-destroying, corporation-fellating dictatorial BS legislation that dear Stephen is so busily ramming down our throats.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (3, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752951)

As a science journalist who has been in this situation a few times, I would ask you, how do you think you would get a more accurate story:

(1) By letting the journalist speak to the scientist, who can explain the research to the journalist,

or

(2) by refusing to communicate with the journalist, and letting the journalist figure it out himself, from an abstract or technical paper?

Let's assume that the reporter is dumb and doesn't understand the science. Choice (2) will give you an even less accurate story. You want to spread ignorance? Don't explain things to journalists. Don't let the public know what you're doing.

But actually, the Canadians have pretty good science journalists and editors.

When I write a complicated story, and it's important to get every fact right, I tell the source, "Let me read my notes back to you to make sure I'm getting you right."

If you're a scientist, and you're worried about being quoted accurately, I would suggest that you say, "Could you read your notes back to me to make sure you're quoting me right?"

That's not the same as reviewing the story for approval. The reporter has a right to write whatever he wants. You have a right to make sure that when he quotes you, he gets your quotes right. A competent PR guy would know how to do that.

A competent PR guy would look at the reporter's other stories, if he had any doubt, and see whether he gets his facts right. But the Ottawa Citizen is a real newspaper, so they should know what they're doing.

But this incident goes beyond worrying about errors. They're terrified that somehow, something might possibly go wrong, despite past experience, and that fear weighs more heavily than the interest in doing their job and informing and educating the public about what their government is doing with their tax money.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (1)

JMZero (449047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753581)

"Let me read my notes back to you to make sure I'm getting you right."

Lol. Do you read the papers? Most reporters today aren't in the business of making sure they get the right quote. They're in the business of waiting for a mistake (or an isolated sentence or phrase that could be construed as one) - and, if they get one, putting it as a headline and milking it for all it's worth. The current Republican primary has turned on stupid phrases; the Alberta election coverage (I live in Alberta) has orbited around them as well. It hasn't given many journalists pause as to whether those quotes represent what those candidates think or feel - they've scored their points and made their splash.

If you can't imagine a journalist salivating about the prospect of reporting "government boondoggle spends x million dollars finding out it's snowing", then you just aren't paying attention. This isn't partisan, this isn't a bureaucratic problem, it's a problem with the perverse relationship that journalists now have with the public. They have tremendous pressure to be permanently adversarial to everyone - many seem to believe that's somehow what journalism is about - and it means that people are loath to be candid or off-the-cuff with any media.

These bureaucrats spending some time to avoid a trumped-up scandal probably saves the government a lot of time and money.

Re:Scientists like to be precise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753895)

As a science journalist who has been in this situation a few times, I would ask you, how do you think you would get a more accurate story:

(1) By letting the journalist speak to the scientist, who can explain the research to the journalist,

or

(2) by refusing to communicate with the journalist, and letting the journalist figure it out himself, from an abstract or technical paper?

That's not quite the question. My question is whether if I spend my time talking to you, you'll actually write something sensible. Because if, as happened with one of your colleagues recently, I spend an hour on the phone with you explaining the science, and you stick together three out-of-context quotes about side issues in order to give a misleading impression of my opinions, whilst ignoring the actual science, it's really not worth my while.

Credit Seeking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752121)

Before people go off on a ridiculous tangent about the evil government, please read the emails. These are PR and Marketing people more concerned about the promotion of their agency and credit rather than divulging politically or scientifically sensitive information.

Re:Credit Seeking (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752365)

Oh, and here I thought it was security protocol. It's funny how highly-desperate marketing-greedy behaviour can somehow resemble high-defensive national-security behaviour, and yet how I feel inclined to pay for one service and not the other!

As a Canadian (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752137)

and a "Tech" worker who knows that many such jobs are subsidized, I'm pretty sure the smoke screen is to prevent people from seeing how little actual value is generated per dollar amount. This is fine, our Western social model says everyone must "work", so we put on shows for each other and call it "work". The alternative? Start BENEFITING from all this technology, energy and "productivity" we keep hearing about and reduce working hours, reduce the number of people who actually need or want to work. But this is heresy.

Re:As a Canadian (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752655)

Wow, finally someone gets it.

I've tried to explain this to people before and they start to get really mad. They say "But everyone needs a job", well no, not everyone needs a job. If all that you do is pointless busywork, thats not really a job, and wouldn't those people be better off enjoying themselves instead?

I've always thought that the whole point of technological progress is eventually everything would be automated and noone would *have* to work, and people could pursue their passions as work.

Also, what is going to happen when the size of the "service economy" is reduced due to technology and automation? This is starting to happen already, and you only have to look at the manufacturing industry to see what happens when it becomes cheap to automate something.

Where are all of these people going to work? I've spoken with scientists and students, and most of them think that everyone will just be augmented so all of these people offset by a dying service industry (why do we need this again?) will become capable of doing scientific work in the future. Yeah ok... Or maybe we could just reduce everyone's hours?

Oh well, nice to see that at least one other person gets it though.

Only appropriate response from NASA (2)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752147)

"Is there someone else up there we can talk to?"

What about talking directly to the scientists? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752151)

Oh, right. Not allowed [nature.com] unless approved [slashdot.org] by the control freaks [www.cbc.ca] we have at the top of the political system at the moment.

I think it's time for ordinary Canadian citizens (and anyone else in the world that wants to help) to start firing off enough requests to Canadian government scientific institutions that we can eventually overwhelm the pinheads in charge of "messaging" and they let us speak with the people doing the work. We used to be able to do that easily, but it has been getting worse and worse over the years. It has achieved truly ridiculous levels of obfuscation with the current government. Scientists should be allowed to speak their minds on scientific matters of public concern. It's good research being paid for with OUR tax dollars. Stop trying to hide it from us for the sake of "controlling the message". If you want to save money, fire the expensive idiots in charge of the "messaging". Scientists are quite capable of delivering a useful message if you let them do their jobs.

If you ever wonder why scientific budgets in Canada continue to decline in terms of money available for research and scientific staff, but the "upper management" and "PR people" staff get bigger and bigger to manage the smaller pool of scientists, this is the answer. These people have nothing to do all day but spin the story to align with the politics of the day.

Re:What about talking directly to the scientists? (1, Flamebait)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752307)

Yeah, and, when you come under a DDOS attack, one quick decision you can make in the short term is ignore everything from a growing blacklist of attacking addresses. An even easier decision would be to ignore an entire block of addresses or, even more simply, ignore any service requests that have nothing to do with your company/organization/network focus and throttle back what services you're "supposed" to provide so you don't become "overwhelmed".

Is that the future you're looking forward to? One where you get singled out for being so egotistical, bored, and productivity-chalenged that you actively seek to force your government to shut down privileges enjoyed by all your fellow citizens in a widespread attempt to defend the government's resources against mis-use? In other words you get your jollies from government mis-spending and over-burden? You enjoy having people work for you only so you can push them to the brink of uselessness? You don't care about your fellow citizens with cooler, leveler heads and higher priorities who might not enjoy a press embargo?

You don't even really care about the purpose or thought put into the protocols that make you so pissed-off. You haven't put any thought into it, if you're even capable of real, critical "thought". You're willing to ignore other peoples' reasons for doing what they do as soon as you find out that they aren't that interested in your over-bearing demand or your reason for demanding it, even if that's simply your spoiled upbringing and insular mentality in action. You just want to stomp your feet, demand "more", demand it "now", and couldn't care less about your neighbors (in any sense of the word).

You probably aren't even aware that you have neighbors.

Re:What about talking directly to the scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752557)

So what's your magical solution then? Polite emails and phonecalls don't work. Contacting your MP doesn't work (they're either in opposition and have no power, or are Conservative and don't care). Protests don't work, and even so much of the media spends its resources ridiculing protesters in as many ways as possible (including making things up out of whole cloth). Even the courts seldom work. Who has the money to take on the government, now that the Conservatives axed the court challenges program?

Even if you have an excess of cash, your case will be thrown out for not having proper standing. Legally, who are YOU to ask the court to do something about being able to talk directly to publicly-funded scientists a decade ago, but are now forbidden from doing so by a team of 1500 communications apparatchiks? It's traditional, it's expected, it's democratic, but it's not one of the technicalities specifically spelled out in black&white in an Act of Parliament. Of course even when a political staffer's behaviour is legally spelled out, and the offence would result in prison time, the apparatchik gets protection from above and the investigation is dropped once the story is no longer in the news. Quid-pro-quo for doing the government's dirty work.

Do you have a solution other than to sit down, shut up, and worship at the feet of our great political masters that so graciously and generously grant "protocols" for us to follow?

Re:What about talking directly to the scientists? (1)

WillHirsch (2511496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753011)

I didn't think you had to have a solution to object to making things profoundly worse.

Re:What about talking directly to the scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753361)

My magical solution is a simple one. LOTS of polite emails, paper mail, and phone calls. As futile as it might be with the current government, we should try to support government scientists. For the most part they do part want to be able to speak with the public with less restrictions. If we accept the way things are going, then I think we have a pretty grim and scientifically uninformed future to look forward to.

I realize that might be exactly what our current government wants, but they don't have to stay in power forever. It's pretty hard to turn something as obscure as "public access to scientists" into a political issue of some significance, but I'd rather try to do so than sit back and watch the whole system burn down through neglect or intent.

The other simple message to try to get across is: more science and scientists, less spent on "communications officers". That may seem contradictory if the goal is more public access to scientists, but I regard the number of these people between scientists and the public to be an expensive obstacle to communication rather than a help with that goal. We need some, but not as many as have been added in recent years as the number of scientists has declined.

Re:What about talking directly to the scientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753223)

You misconstrue my intent. It's not to shut down services in some kind of DDOS. It's to wake up our government to the fact that people actually want to talk to scientists about science. People don't want the well-spun talking points. They want the real deal. At some point somebody is going to realize that sending back canned messages from spin doctors isn't going to be satisfactory, and that enough people have said it isn't good enough that the politicians at the top might start wondering aloud "Gee, maybe we aught to let people make scientists more available, because this could be a vote-determining issue for some people." If you just quietly accept the manipulations, then science supported by government will just dwindle away and become irrelevant, regardless of how important it might be to public interests. If scientists can't talk to the public openly, then how is the public supposed to know whether the job the scientists do is important or not? How are they supposed to assess whether the money spent is worth it? My suggestion is to keep on demanding the access that the public deserves, so that the access *is* there, rather than hidden behind layers of bureaucracy. We need to help scientists keep the public access, and vice-versa. My entire comment boils down to "Use it or lose it." Demand public access to scientists, and keep doing so until somebody at the high levels of government realizes that the public does care about the issue.

I didn't explain this in my message, but I used to work for the Canadian government years ago as a public servant and as a scientist, and I still work closely with scientists who are in the federal government on projects, so I know both first hand what it is like to interact with the public, and how profoundly more difficult it has gotten in the last few years by comparison to when I was there. I *liked* interacting with the public. I felt it was my obligation to do so (the public was paying the bills). I worked hard at it, whether it was interacting with the press or visiting schools and helping teachers, and those members of the public told me that my interactions were helpful to them.

I know the ostensible reasons why those protocols are there. I used to have to abide by them. As challenging as they were sometimes, they still served a reasonable purpose most of the time. But they are so over-the-top now that it has become obvious that the goal is no longer to smooth over the normal challenge of scientists trying to interact with the public or keeping management informed. It's either to intentionally stifle public interaction itself (less public interaction means it's easier to cut science entirely without anyone noticing or caring until serious deficiencies become obvious) or to insure that the only scientific results that get promoted are the ones that conform with the governmental politics of the day. I can't think of any other logical reason for doing what has occurred in the last 4 or 5 years. It's crazy and getting worse.

I take the rest of your erroneous psychological analysis as a sign that either my communication skills are poor, or that you are prone to jumping to unwarranted conclusions. I suggest re-reading what I said in the original comment. And if you happen to work in communications as one of the "messaging" people, I'm not saying these people are useless. I've worked with some great ones at the delivery end. I'm saying there are too many of them costing too much money and they have far too much control, especially high up in these institutions. They act like old-fashioned Soviet political officers. It's taking things in a bad direction and stifling a lot of good work.

What about protecting national security? (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752171)

It probably has something to do with Canada's international affairs restrictions on the press and the sense of heightened security after it was discovered (immediately post 9-11) how easily terrorists could attack America through Canada's huger borders and therefore more lax security.

That hardly makes it "security theatre". I think it's sort of fancy and maybe looks unnecessary in this context, but why ask for conessions where security is concerned? It's not like they strip-searched the press or had them trailed for asking questions. They appear to have been following the protocols of some pre-arranged agreement between the two national governments concerning international affairs between agencies, with a mind toward protecting America from evil people who would seek to take advantage of Canada's breathtaking liberalism and wide country.

I mean, the way I see it, the behaviour of the withholding organization was perhaps overdrawn and maybe on purpose but not without its rewards to America. Maybe something else happened where some people would have liked to have been allowed to be free-er with the press and couldn't because of some restriction and they decided to be obtusely contrite through adhering strictly to the protocols. So saying, that's what people do when they get tired of something, and the best way to keep them from feeling too tired is to pay them more. I'd have to say that if Canadians aren't getting some small but respectable amount of kickback or income for being a vanguard of the national security of the USA, then maybe they should.

Re:What about protecting national security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753213)

It probably has something to do with Canada's international affairs restrictions on the press and the sense of heightened security after it was discovered (immediately post 9-11) how easily terrorists could attack America through Canada's huger borders and therefore more lax security.

That hardly makes it "security theatre".

You are an idiot of the highest order. Every one of the 9-11 terrorists were admitted to the United States of Amerika on various visas, mostly student visas apparently, as they entered the country from their own damn countries in the Middle East. But listen to Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh if you choose to be misinformed. Hell, even your own President does not understand reality.

Par for the course (4, Informative)

jpmorgan (517966) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752183)

Canadian government bureaucracies are a nightmare. About seven years ago I was working on a project where we needed access to some government data under similar circumstances. It ended up being a lot quicker going through the US State Department to request the data from the US Army Corps of Engineers than it was to get it from the Canadian government.

Unemployment (2, Funny)

slashdyke (873156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752191)

For all of you bashing Harper and his politicized government, non-profits and the rest of Canada, all I have to say is we got it right. Eleven or twelve people are working for the government rather than collecting Employment Insurance. Just think how many unemployed could be working in the states if Agencies such as NASA, used the same amount of manpower to answer questions like these. I am sure that would solve the economic slowdown we have been having.

Re:Unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752273)

solve the economic slowdown? these wages are 10times that of an income, YOUR NOT SOLVING ANYTHING!!!
the costs of these jobs will drain your government and economy dry, the more government jobs the broker the state gets (america is 25% of the worlds government with 5% of the worlds population, and technically BROKE)

Re:Unemployment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752493)

Whoosh!

Yes, Minister (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752201)

If they don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong.
-Sir Humphrey

Not sure I blame them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752217)

Yes, science should be (and is) open. Journalists are pretty bad at this though - having experienced first hand a journalist conducting an interview purporting to cover the science, but in fact printing a misleading collage of old and out-of-context quotes about a side issue, I'm not sure I'm all that enthusiastic to talk to our friends in the press again. I'll happily explain what I do to people who are interested, give tours to the public, and I'm happy to collaborate with a journalist on a publicly-accessible article. But have my words twisted and placed out of context? I'm not sure I want to play that game.

Oil is worth $100BN in business a year to Canada (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752261)

You wonder why their government might panic at anything that even remotely hints as being climate-related? 100 billion reasons.

Re:Oil is worth $100BN in business a year to Canad (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753985)

Dammit, I was gonna joke about how that was only 85 billion American reasons, but right now the Canadian dollar is at almost perfect parity with the US dollar.

Damn you, reality.

End result: the NASA scientist will get in trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752305)

The NASA scientist will probably get in trouble for talking to the press without political supervision.
Meanwhile the Canadian bureaucrats will have their asses sufficiently covered.

This is how we can fix the problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752357)

The problem of course is that the U.S. bureaucrats need to be better educated. Something that 5-6 seminars in Hawaii won't cure.

After which I'm sure that we can get slower answers.

Sounds about right (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752421)

As a Canadian I can say that this is expected response from any government agency in Canada. You will never get a straight answer. Ever. And Harper is not to blame, sadly it's just cultural. People wonder why labor efficiency in Canada is low compared to the US and Europe -- it's because nobody can ever get an answer when they have some obstacle to resolve. You always get returned a few times because you filled out something "wrong", or it's another department responsible for what you want (which then sends you back), etc. The only thing surprising is that a Canadian newspaper from Ottawa finds this whole thing surprising -- they should be expecting it.

I will answer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752453)

"Top Secret"

And the NASA scientist? (2)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752517)

I presume the NASA scientist was reprimanded for giving a straight answer without going through the press office?

Re:And the NASA scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752857)

No, NASA actually lets their scientists talk about science. They are much better than Canada in this respect.

Re:And the NASA scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753015)

Yes, I am also weirded out that this story doesn't conform to my anti-US-gov't kneejerks.

Success!!! (1)

million_monkeys (2480792) | more than 2 years ago | (#39752603)

Sounds like the bureaucracy did it's job perfectly.

Re:Success!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752649)

Yes, unfortunately. The expression "red tape" was coined to describe how civil servants work; they don't have any incentive to be productive. Usually the biggest problem is burning all the hours in a day.

Bureaucrats vs. Scientists/Engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39752981)

When they called the NRC, they got hold of a bunch of bureaucrats who are only interested in CYAP (covering your ass with paper). When they called NASA, they got a scientist/engineer who only knows how to deal with reality/truth. Bureaucrats are gatekeepers. Scientists are enablers. What a profound difference between the two species of animal!

Who did they call at NASA? (5, Informative)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753267)

Without knowing the chain they went through with NASA, it isn't really fair to compare the two experiences.

Let's ignore the fact that the journalist decided to call the NRC at the very last minute for a bit of extra information, and look at what happened in the communication internally at the NRC.

The NRC media arm was called, and unless the person at NRC in charge of that initial contact happens to know EXACTLY who to ask, there will invariably a flurry of back and forth communication internally, just as you see in the article.

When you look through the emails (btw, I hate it when you are given a data dump like that - it's close to impossible to figure out where one email ends and another begins), you find that the original call is on March 1st at 09:30

At 11:39 Manya Chadwick has an answer to the journalist, that needs to be signed off on.

That's after 2 hours and 9 minutes. Over email. In my book that's a fantastic turn-around time. Keep in mind that it is extremely unlikely that the involved parties are ignoring everything else on their plate.

Then at 14:03, Jonathan Ward has signed off on the text. That's 2 hours 24 minutes later. Again, for email, that's a fantastic turn-around time.

And at 15:10 Tom Spears is sent his initial answer. That's 6 hours, 12 minutes.

At 16:38 Tom Spears is given an extra update to the lines, pointing out that the NRC forgot to credit their partner CSA.

At 09:47 on March 2nd Tom Spears writes back: "Thanks, but when NRC won't speak to me I can't guarantee to write the story the way you want it.". (Seriously? Less than an hour after he gets his answer, they send a tiny update because THEY MADE A MISTAKE, and he decides to be snarky like that?)

The reporter didn't even bother to write back with a follow-up question or anything after he received the answer (only a "RECEIVED" message at 15:42). He didn't bother to ask if he could call someone or get a quick callback for anything.

---

Let's go back to the question asked (technically no question is asked):

I've read that a NASA mission in Southern Ontario ended yesterday, where they had aircraft taking measurements of snow. It also mentioned that NRC was involved using one of its Convair aircraft to assist with these measurements. I'm looking for someone to speak to this quickly - I already have most of my story, I'd just like to get a feel for NRC's involvement in the project.

Now - since he's talking to Media Relations, he's obviously not going to be directly transferred to someone with intimate knowledge. That's just extremely unlikely to happen, unless (as I mentioned before) the person at NRC in charge of that initial contact happens to know EXACTLY who to ask.

The inquiry, as it's written, is more along the lines of "I'd just like to get a feel for NRC's involvement in the project" (a question that is answered in the mail he received) than "Why do you want to study snow?", as the journalist says the hoped-for interview would have asked.

My question is - what hoped-for interview? The initial inquiry was for information on NRC's involvement.

Now - considering that he received the initial answer at 15:10, there would have been PLENTY of time for him to spend five minutes to compose an email along the lines of:

Jonathan. Thank you for your answer, but I was hoping to get some time to ask some other questions about this study, preferably by phone. Like, say - WHY DO YOU WANT TO STUDY SNOW? Can you please have someone call me back ASAP on 613-596-3700?

But no. Aparently it is not in a journalist's scope of work to ask followup questions. Or at least not Mr. Tom Spears's type of journalism. I mean - imagine the extra work it would take him to add those extra 243 characters to his email. I mean - that's almost two entire Twitter messages! The horror.

---

So - what about the NASA thing?

Note that "We phoned a NASA scientist who happily described the project", not NASA's Media Relation.

This is the article Tom Spears originally saw: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/DC-8_GCPEx_status_02_28_12.html [nasa.gov] .

That article has several quotes from Walter Petersen, the Global Precipitation Measurement ground validation scientist at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

I've never been in contact with NASA, but I think it'd take me less than 15 minutes to get Mr. Petersen (or one of his colleagues) on the phone, if he was at work when I called. Especially considering that I can find direct numbers to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility here: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home/index.html [nasa.gov] .

You simply CANNOT expect to get similar responses and response times, when you're calling two very different types of departments with extremely different types of inquiries.

With NASA it'd be very simple to call Wallops, say "I'm a journalist at Ottawa Citizen, and I was hoping to speak to Mr. Walter Petersen about an article a GCPEx Snow Study over Canada, wherein he talks about measuring snow fall over Canada." At worst they'll say "Mr. Petersen isn't available right now, but can you hold while I check if someone else might be able to answer your questions?"

However - if you were to contact one of NASA Headquarters Public Affairs Officers, and give them a vague inquiry about NASA's involvement with a random project, I would be insanely surprised, if they could do it in a single phone call. I'd be surprised if they even managed to get back to you in the same day with something that wasn't akin to what the NRC responded with.

---

Honestly, I've never read anything else that Mr. Tom Spears has written, but I'm not exactly surprised that that he's essentially whining about his homework being eaten by the dog, because he didn't bother doing his job properly - it's what I've come to expect of journalists these days.

Oh, I'm also not Canadian or live there, nor do I work in any kind of media relations job. But it seems that unlike Mr. Tom Spears, I am able to actually think things through.

MOD PARENT UP!! (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753377)

Someone should add this to the summary.

Re:MOD PARENT UP!! (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753575)

Thank you, but adding this to the summary would be disingenuous.

The summary is a summary of the article, and summarizes article quite well.

My issue is with the article is that it's essentially a journalist getting his panties in a bunch, just because the NRC contact couldn't read his mind.

Re:Who did they call at NASA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753433)

However - if you were to contact one of NASA Headquarters Public Affairs Officers, and give them a vague inquiry about NASA's involvement with a random project, I would be insanely surprised, if they could do it in a single phone call. I'd be surprised if they even managed to get back to you in the same day with something that wasn't akin to what the NRC responded with.

The big difference between the NRC and NASA is that NASA is constantly having to justify its existence (especially for science missions). The NASA budget is always on the table for budget cuts. So NASA has learned to be very effective at communicating why it is needed and not stonewalling the press.

Re:Who did they call at NASA? (1)

kermidge (2221646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753499)

No mod points, sorry. Bravo!

This is now typical of every agency in Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39753425)

Welcome to the Canada run by Stephen Harper - where nothing, even simple answers to simple questions, can be done without a mile of red tape and "conservative messaging."

That's the purpose of a bureaucracy (0)

haruchai (17472) | more than 2 years ago | (#39753543)

It's not to provide information upon request but to prevent you, as much as possible, from getting answers without being bluntly told no.

Management (1)

florescent_beige (608235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39754105)

There is the thing and there is the management of the thing.

When the thing itself is the management of the thing then an unstoppable cycle is created. It will eventually consume the human race.

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