Snow and Scientific Communications

April 21st, 2012 by Potato

The Ottawa Citizen had a great couple of articles on a joint NASA/NRC/CSA project to study snow storms and weather radar. While the first article about the project is not bad, what made it notable was the follow-up freedom of information release showing the ridiculous layers of bureaucracy and message massaging that had to happen before a non-answer was released. An op-ed the next day lamented the extreme information secrecy of the government.

I think scientific communication is important — indeed, it’s something I’m hoping to make a career out of here. So it’s kind of sad to see such an epic failure of communication in this case. What makes it especially sad is the number of people involved: I counted at least 4 different people in the FoI series of emails who were dedicating time and effort to not communicate, and there were more who appeared in just one or two short snippets. I bet you could not communicate with just one person in the department, or even an unhelpful sign on the door and a voicemail message. These guys, in theory, are supposed to help translate the science for the lay people and do the communications so the scientists can do science, though with the present government the entire goal may simply to act as a firewall between the scientists and everyone else. But wouldn’t everyone have been better off if one of the scientists just did the talking for himself?

So I see this kind of thing and can’t help but think “what are they getting paid for?” Couldn’t that money be better used for the main mission: science?

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