The science journal Nature called on the Canadian government in an online editorial Friday to "set its scientists free" and allow them to speak about their research.
"It is time for the Canadian government to set its scientists free," Nature said in a rebuke of a "gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists" since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives won power in 2006.
The editorial described a "confused and Byzantine approach to the press" by the Harper government, "prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge."
"Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak," it said.
"Prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature."
Nature called on Ottawa to heed complaints from the Canadian Science Writers' Association and other groups critical of the "muzzling of publicly funded scientists."
These were outlined in a letter to Harper sent mid-February, which lists examples such as Environment Canada's David Tarasick being prevented from speaking to the press about his ozone layer research.