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Ex-government scientist in northwestern Ontario says muzzling was part of "toxic" work environment

A researcher at the Experimental Lakes Area says restrictions placed on federal government scientists are "disturbing."

"I think that Canadians are missing out by not hearing that work."

Michael Rennie is a scientist with the Experimental Lakes Area, now run by a non-profit group instead of the federal government. He said scientists there are encouraged to speak to media, now that the International Institute for Sustainable Development is in charge. (Supplied)

A researcher at the Experimental Lakes Area says restrictions placed on federal government scientists are "disturbing."

Mike Rennie began working at the ELA in 2010 when it was a government-run facility and said requests from media "99.999 per cent of the time" just "vanished  into the ether of communications." 

"I think that Canadians are missing out by not hearing that work."

the growing frustration around government scientists, and what they're allowed to say. Michael Rennie is a researcher at the ELA who saw the change when the research centre became independent. 6:28

He said the communications policy was part of a "toxic" work environment and that it was disheartening for researchers not to be able to share their work.

Rennie said now that the ELA near Kenora is run by the non-profit group International Institute for Sustainable Development, the atmosphere is much different.

He said scientists are now encouraged to speak to media about their findings.

"It's critically important for people to understand the science that's being conducted, particularly within government labs, and how that information is being used to guide the decisions made for policy and government," said Rennie, who is also a Canada Research Chair in freshwater ecology and fisheries in the department of biology at Lakehead University. 

"The ability to communicate the research that we do as scientists is the foundation of what we do. There's no point in going out and doing scientific studies if we can't communicate the results of that science." 

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