World of Wonders

When we see things that aren’t, we miss the wonderful things that are.

Canadian government muzzling federal scientists

The Ad Astra Science Fiction convention in Toronto might seem an odd setting for the panel discussion, “The Muzzling of Canadian Federal Scientists: Is 1984 Here?”. But, as moderator Pippa Wysong pointed out in her opening remarks, the muzzling of scientists would make a good plot line for a science fiction thriller.

Government control of federally-funded scientists is a growing concern among Canadian science journalists. In years past, the media typically would have unrestricted and immediate access to researchers. The panel, which included science journalists Wysong, Saul Chernos and Janet Pelley, and physicist David Stephenson, offered ample proof that the situation has changed in a disturbing way.

For example, Pelley described an incident at a water quality conference in 2009. Following a presentation on Bisphenol A, she asked the researchers for an interview. The scientists “laughed nervously”, told Pelley they couldn’t answer her questions, and pointed toward a “press-minder” standing nearby. Pelley asked the media officer for permission to interview the scientists but her request was denied. Instead, she was instructed to submit her request to the media office. Needless to say, Pelley didn’t get her interview that day.

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Filed under: media, politics

About me

I am a Toronto-based writer, author and photographer who is inspired and fascinated by science. Science is our best way of understanding the natural world, but it is much more than that. Science is culture, and its pursuit ultimately leads to meaning, values and wonder.  My interests include evolution, Darwin, the Galapagos Islands, secular humanism, religion, skepticism, climate change, and science culture.  For many years, I wrote and produced astronomy programs for the McLaughlin Planetarium of the Royal Ontario Museum. I am author of many books for young readers (Sterling Publishing and Penguin Young Readers, N.Y.) and articles for children's magazines. I also write non-fiction related to the themes reflected in this blog. You can read some of my longer non-fiction and view my photographs at, and follow me at


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