By Hamish Johnston
The work describes a massive flood that occurred about 13,000 years ago when water from an immense glacial lake broke out and hurled towards the Arctic Ocean.
The work was covered in media outlets around the world and Dallimore’s co-authors were quoted widely. Sadly, Dallimore was denied his moment in the Sun because he was effectively prevented from speaking to reporters by his employer, the Canadian Government.
I say “effectively prevented”, because Dallimore could have spoken if the journalist’s questions and his answers were first vetted by the government. However, this can take several days or even months according to science writer Glen Blouin. When combined with Nature‘s embargo policy (which gives journalists only a few days to write their articles), it is unlikely that Dallimore could have been quoted when the story broke.
A quick survey of blogs and comments on this topic suggests that muzzling is not new. What seems to have changed is that scientists are now a target of the government’s information machine.
Why? It could have something to do with the fact that the current prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party have strong connections to the province of Alberta – a major oil producer and home to the controversial oil sands.
Years ago when I was in high school we were taught that Alberta is sitting on top of the world’s largest oil reserve – and we only had to wait until the price of oil was high enough to make extraction from the oil sands viable.
30 years on and we have reached that price point, but concerns about vast carbon dioxide emissions and other environmental issues have made the oil sands a political hot potato.
I’m guessing that there are some in Alberta and in Ottawa who want to make sure that government scientists don’t spoil the long-awaited bonanza.