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Canadian Bureacracy Can't Answer Simple Question: What's This Study With NASA? 164

Posted by timothy
from the how-thick-is-your-thicket? dept.
Saint Aardvark writes "It seemed like a pretty simple question about a pretty cool topic: an Ottawa newspaper wanted to ask Canada's National Research Council about a joint study with NASA on tracking falling snow in Canada. Conventional radar can see where it's falling, but not the amount — so NASA, in collaboration with the NRC, Environment Canada and a few universities, arranged flights through falling snow to analyse readings with different instruments. But when they contacted the NRC to get the Canadian angle, "it took a small army of staffers— 11 of them by our count — to decide how to answer, and dozens of emails back and forth to circulate the Citizen's request, discuss its motivation, develop their response, and "massage" its text." No interview was given: "I am not convinced we need an interview. A few lines are fine. Please let me see them first," says one civil servant in the NRC emails obtained by the newspaper under the Access to Information act. By the time the NRC finally sorted out a boring, technical response, the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes."
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Canadian Bureacracy Can't Answer Simple Question: What's This Study With NASA?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:25PM (#39752015)

    The Prime Ministers office is obsessed with US-style 'controlling the message'. No public statement may be made by anyone employed by the government without approval of a political officer. This has even recently been extended to the RCMP, and has affected publicly funded science for a long time. No information from our government is free of political meddling and spin designed to further the agenda of the Conservative party - which cares about only one thing: Being re-elected forever.

    Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

    • The Prime Ministers office is obsessed with US-style 'controlling the message'. No public statement may be made by anyone employed by the government without approval of a political officer. This has even recently been extended to the RCMP, and has affected publicly funded science for a long time. No information from our government is free of political meddling and spin designed to further the agenda of the Conservative party - which cares about only one thing: Being re-elected forever.

      Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

      Practice snowjob.

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:28PM (#39752579)

      US-style 'controlling the message'.

      Quoth TFS:

      the newspaper had already called up a NASA scientist and got all the info they asked for; it took about 15 minutes.

      Maybe it's not as "US-style" as you think it is.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Its been a "US-style" for sometime:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird [wikipedia.org]
        Its just Canada is more clumsy in its handling of a simple questions.
        The US has always been proud of science and getting the press to see its hardware, feel good weather, nature studies.
        Gets the smart kids interested in science and makes them trusting of the Military–industrial complex
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        The US is just better at it. Harper controls everything, even information about falling snow. In theUS they know that you can let the scientists talk about snow. But not WMDs.

        • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Saturday April 21, 2012 @02:04AM (#39754075)

          The US is just better at it. Harper controls everything, even information about falling snow. In theUS they know that you can let the scientists talk about snow. But not WMDs.

          Harper is basically a climate change denier in a position of power. If snow studies indicate climate change, he'll have to suppress that sort of information. It's why he's cut budgets on Environment Canada, muzzled all government scientists (all requests to speak with one must go through a political officer first). Heck, there was one investigating some virus on salmon, and people were denied requests to talk to the scientist involved (it was interesting).

          He's basically trying to sell off all the oil he can as quickly as possible - why, I don't know. The price of oil isn't going down, so it seems silly to sell so much now when selling it later can command much more money. (We aren't going to give up our oil habit that easily, but we'll transition to other fuels for our cars. And oil will become a hard to get speciality fuel - people want their old-timey muscle cars and the like).

          Hell, he wants to ship Canada's oil to Asia. Why not keep it here, refine it here, and then make our gas prices cheap? Gas's $1.40 a litre (roughly $5.50/gal). And you want to sell our oil that could be made into gas locally to lower gas prices?

          Hell, why not ship it eastward to the eastern refineries?

          • by hoboroadie (1726896) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @09:01AM (#39755229)

            That's not oil, its high-pressure asphalt, "liquified" with added solvent, but the pipeline is designed for lower pressure oil, and they want to run it alongside the fastest-flowing river in British Columbia, since the Kalamazoo was too sluggish to promote a truly world-class catastrophe. Canada is aiming to take their rightful place in the headlines.

          • I assume Canada doesn't want to even try refining tar into gasoline (the list of by products must be long and toxic), so they send it across the entirety of the continental US to Houston for refining. Why Houston? So the final product can be more easily exported to the global market. My fellow idiot USians think this pipline will result in lower gasoline prices*, but it will only result in the inevitible massive oil spills and ground water contamination.

            * - It is beyond high time to take down all the tw
    • The WGA just does not want to be responsible for giving out false information. Can't blame them for that.
    • by nbauman (624611)

      "US-style"? I beg your pardon.

      American governments can give false information to the public with total impunity. http://www.salon.com/2007/09/06/bush_wmd/ [salon.com]

    • Sadly this seems to work and they are resisting scandals that would normally fall a government (eg giving false information to the public is typically certain death for a government in Canada). These people don't respect our democracy or the need for free information from the government, they don't deserve to run our country, but we are stuck with them for the foreseeable future, and it is unlikely any future government will dismantle all this information control infrastructure. :(

      If giving false info to the public is certain death to a government then "controlling the message" sounds like a rational response and the panicked flurry of emails in TFA is explained. I'd love it if US bureaucrats were as afraid of lying to the public as Canadian ones apparently are.

    • That's not surprising at all.

      Remember Palin dissing 'fruit fly' research. It's stupid, right? Or some other candidate laughing about volcano research (right before the Eyjafjallajokull eruption).

      It's no wonder that scientists don't wish to give extra ammunition to this crowd by poorly worded answers.

    • While I despise Harper as much as the rest (at least the majority) of Canadians, this story I think has more to do with the general setup of our government bureaucracy. In Canada, a significant role of government is to provide a kind of welfare for educated people by employing them do do effectively nothing but slow down the machinery of government. What this means is that when a decision must be made, or a request answered by government, instead of one person doing the job (even is it is a simple request f
    • by bryan1945 (301828)

      The Mounties can't say anything? What the heck would they say that would have any affect on the government?

  • by machinder (527464) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:26PM (#39752029) Homepage
    There is no mystery here. The Harper government has been suppressing any discussion of environment and climate topics that even come anywhere near to talking about climate change. Scientists and agencies are legitimately afraid for their funding and their jobs.
    • It's the 'Harper Regime', I'm afraid.
    • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:47PM (#39753021) Journal

      While Harper is originally from the Toronto area, he moved to Calgary, Alberta a long time ago and that is where he began his professional career and started into politics. He has an Alberta hard right political leaning. (That is Alberta, land of oil and tar sands.) And that is hard right as in Alberta's new 'Wild Rose' party that looks nearly set to beat the provincial conservative party in an election in the next few weeks. In Canada, normally even the conservatives are to the left of the Democrats in the U.S. Lately with Harper, they are approaching GW Bush republicans. The Wild Rose Party definitely is on a par with Bush, even if they may have to support things they find distasteful in order to get elected. Harper and the WRP share the same roots and ideology.

      What they also share is the backing of the big oil companies, most of whose headquarters in Canada are located where else, in Alberta. Home of oil reserves, natural gas out the waazoo, and a very large chunk of the oil errr, tar sands (a large portion also falls under Saskatchewan's jurisdiction). A lot of the backing money for the conservative party also comes from the same source. And whereas the Liberal and NDP base is in the central/east and Quebec, the conservative base is in the west, primarily in Alberta. This is why Harper does everything he can to protect big oil and supports the anti-global warming faction as much as he can. He and his base are also fairly high on the Christian fundamentalist scale. That is, his base, not everyone who voted for him.

      He has evidenced over the past number of years a strong anti science agenda. He has fired scientists for talking to the press and IIRC even for publishing papers his government doesn't like. He has barred scientists from the National Research Council climate research from attending a number of conferences including United Nations climate conferences. This would be equivalent to barring experts from NOAA or NASA weather experts from attending. He even managed to find a way to bar other members of the government, including opposition parties from attending. When they were caught out in some lie, his minister of the environment had the gall to tell the opposition parties that if they wanted to make a certain point, they should have attended the conference they were barred from going to.

      Any time something threatens the oil sands projects, he mobilizes his forces like going to war. He wants to sell oil for his supporters at almost any cost. So why didn't he flip out more when the pipeline through the states didn't pan out? It's because it is ultimately not that big a deal for him or his benefactors. He has an 'out'. He was already in the process and since then has already passed legislation that will make ramming a pipeline to the west coast through B.C. a done deal. If U.S. politicians won't back a path to a market, he has a majority in the house in Canada, which makes him a defacto dictator for five years able to pass any laws he wants (and yes, when the Liberals were in majority we had glorious leader Chretien). Then he will sell China as much oil as they can buy. AFWIW, any law within reason. If any leader with a majority tried to force through legislation to give himself an extra longer term or something, the Queen or the Governor General can boot him out. Hasn't happened before but it's why we still give those other guys the power to do so... just in case. And at least when I was in the military, we swore allegiance to the Queen and Canada. The PM is not the CIC.

      Given all this, it is not surprising that the people he has running the NRC now are doing a superb job running interference when any press... any press asks questions even remotely connected to the weather.

      Why did Canadians elect them? Mainly because the Liberals and NDP were fighting over who could be the most left leaning party in the country. That left no middle ground. But the middle ground people didn't want to lean that far left so they had no choice but bite the bullet and vote for the ri

      • by snowraver1 (1052510) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:44PM (#39753323)
        Excuse me, but here in Alberta, we don't call them "tar sands". We prefer the term "freedom sands".

        Vote wild boar! [wildboarparty.ca]
        • That just completely made my day, if only for "Saskatchewan threatens Alberta with weaponized gophers."

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jklovanc (1603149)

        He has evidenced over the past number of years a strong anti science agenda. He has fired scientists for talking to the press and IIRC even for publishing papers his government doesn't like. He has barred scientists from the National Research Council climate research from attending a number of conferences including United Nations climate conferences. This would be equivalent to barring experts from NOAA or NASA weather experts from attending. He even managed to find a way to bar other members of the government, including opposition parties from attending. When they were caught out in some lie, his minister of the environment had the gall to tell the opposition parties that if they wanted to make a certain point, they should have attended the conference they were barred from going to.

        Lets just post allegations without names and dates so no one can check the story What scientists were fired? What exact conference were scientists barred from? Hod did he "bar other members of the government" from attending and who were these other members? What lie were they caught in?

        Actually barring opposition parties from being seen as speaking for the government is quite common. Would any party in power want to give the opposition an international platform?

        If you want to make allegations then please b

      • by haruchai (17472)
        Professional career? You mean some time spent in the mail room and then doing data entry for Imperial Oil?
        He's a career politician, the only thing he's ever been any good at.
      • Here is a source to the law you mentioned for streamlining approvals [vancouversun.com] as well as cutting the CBC, which generally favoured the Liberals. Harper had a rough time with the media in the beginning, especially with the CBC, but now with a 5-10% cut in funding, the CBC will have a harder time criticizing him. In fact Harper has made it a priority to cut 10% from every department in government, while cutting corporate tax cuts by a few percentage points again in the budget.
        In fact all of what you said from my refe
  • I'm sure there are going to be dozens posts about the evil conservative government and how they have all their ministries scared to say anything about anything. However, and despite all the cool stuff that the NRC does (like 3d scanners, heated concrete, etc), they do do a lot of top secret research. I'm not surprised that a request involving a foreign government organization was met with a bureaucratic response.

    Here is a quick list [nrc-cnrc.gc.ca] of some of their best and most important work. Probably a much more inte

  • Even the simplest things can be told incorrectly, and even the smallest error can get picked up by the media and blown out of proportion to either discredit the institute or spread ignorance. Communication is not as obvious as just telling what you are working on.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the 11 staffers were scientists discussing science that would be one thing.

      The article talks about how managers, a media analyst, and other senior officials spent considerable time "massaging" the message back and forth. Eventually they give a few lines about the number of flights, the number of instruments, and the number of government partners, but not a single word about snow.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:40PM (#39752195) Journal
      Unfortunately, if TFA is to be believed, the waffling was on the part of 'communications' flacks, not actual scientists. To be sure, scientists are unlikely to be enthusiastic about being misquoted(though, if they've done anything high profile before, probably view it as inevitable, no matter How Slowly And Loudly They Explain Their Work With Small Words...); but it isn't even clear that the email chain manages to involve any scientists, let alone giving them the final word on their research.
      • by canadian_right (410687) <alexander.russell@telus.net> on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:06PM (#39752435) Homepage

        The current Harper government has been in the news quite a bit lately for muzzling scientists. The Harper government seems obsessed with controlling information coming from any government agency.

        Can't wait until he is turfed out.

        • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:31PM (#39753265)

          Can't wait until he is turfed out.

          Have you ever noticed that when a new government takes power, it very rarely reverses the stupid policies and shameful legislation perpetrated by the previous one? Politicians beat their breasts and flap their gums endlessly about their predecessors' mistakes, but once in power they seldom rectify them. So yes, it'll be a great day when Harper is given the bum's rush he so richly deserves; but we'll still be stuck with all the regressive, secretive, power-mongering, privacy-raping, freedom-destroying, corporation-fellating dictatorial BS legislation that dear Stephen is so busily ramming down our throats.

    • by nbauman (624611) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:32PM (#39752951) Homepage Journal

      As a science journalist who has been in this situation a few times, I would ask you, how do you think you would get a more accurate story:

      (1) By letting the journalist speak to the scientist, who can explain the research to the journalist,

      or

      (2) by refusing to communicate with the journalist, and letting the journalist figure it out himself, from an abstract or technical paper?

      Let's assume that the reporter is dumb and doesn't understand the science. Choice (2) will give you an even less accurate story. You want to spread ignorance? Don't explain things to journalists. Don't let the public know what you're doing.

      But actually, the Canadians have pretty good science journalists and editors.

      When I write a complicated story, and it's important to get every fact right, I tell the source, "Let me read my notes back to you to make sure I'm getting you right."

      If you're a scientist, and you're worried about being quoted accurately, I would suggest that you say, "Could you read your notes back to me to make sure you're quoting me right?"

      That's not the same as reviewing the story for approval. The reporter has a right to write whatever he wants. You have a right to make sure that when he quotes you, he gets your quotes right. A competent PR guy would know how to do that.

      A competent PR guy would look at the reporter's other stories, if he had any doubt, and see whether he gets his facts right. But the Ottawa Citizen is a real newspaper, so they should know what they're doing.

      But this incident goes beyond worrying about errors. They're terrified that somehow, something might possibly go wrong, despite past experience, and that fear weighs more heavily than the interest in doing their job and informing and educating the public about what their government is doing with their tax money.

      • by JMZero (449047)

        "Let me read my notes back to you to make sure I'm getting you right."

        Lol. Do you read the papers? Most reporters today aren't in the business of making sure they get the right quote. They're in the business of waiting for a mistake (or an isolated sentence or phrase that could be construed as one) - and, if they get one, putting it as a headline and milking it for all it's worth. The current Republican primary has turned on stupid phrases; the Alberta election coverage (I live in Alberta) has orbited a

        • by nbauman (624611)

          Lol. Do you read the papers? Most reporters today aren't in the business of making sure they get the right quote. They're in the business of waiting for a mistake (or an isolated sentence or phrase that could be construed as one) - and, if they get one, putting it as a headline and milking it for all it's worth.

          This is a fantasy of people who don't read the newspapers and have a vague idea that the newspapers are publishing things they disagree with. The only people who do that are the advocacy sites like Breitbart's, and the right-wing tabloids like Murdoch's. When I ask people like you for examples, they can't come up with them. If you read the actual story in the Ottawa Citizen, http://www.ottawacitizen.com/technology/NASA+latest+destination+southern+Ontario+hamlet/6237144/story.html [ottawacitizen.com] you'd see that it was accur

          • by JMZero (449047)

            OK, got it. If a newspaper does something bad, it's not really a newspaper - it's an advocacy site or a right-wing tabloid.

            So these PR people can feel free to answer quickly to newspapers, they just have to be careful about tabloids, magazines, periodicals, rogue reporters, and temporary lapses in judgement that are not indicative of a paper's overall quality.

            Or, they could assume the worst of all media, just as so many journalists are trained to assume anyone they interview are lying liars telling lies.

            • by nbauman (624611)

              I am not making the No True Scotsman fallacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_scotsman_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

              If you understand science, and you've been reading newspapers and magazines, it will be clear which newspapers and reporters can report science accurately and which can't. Most of the major newspapers, like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, etc. do a pretty good job most of the time. I know which reporters at the NYT I can trust and which reporters fuck up sometimes. (When they do fuck up, it's usually bec

  • As a Canadian (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    and a "Tech" worker who knows that many such jobs are subsidized, I'm pretty sure the smoke screen is to prevent people from seeing how little actual value is generated per dollar amount. This is fine, our Western social model says everyone must "work", so we put on shows for each other and call it "work". The alternative? Start BENEFITING from all this technology, energy and "productivity" we keep hearing about and reduce working hours, reduce the number of people who actually need or want to work. But thi
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Wow, finally someone gets it.

      I've tried to explain this to people before and they start to get really mad. They say "But everyone needs a job", well no, not everyone needs a job. If all that you do is pointless busywork, thats not really a job, and wouldn't those people be better off enjoying themselves instead?

      I've always thought that the whole point of technological progress is eventually everything would be automated and noone would *have* to work, and people could pursue their passions as work.

      Also, wha

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:36PM (#39752147)

    "Is there someone else up there we can talk to?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:36PM (#39752151)

    Oh, right. Not allowed [nature.com] unless approved [slashdot.org] by the control freaks [www.cbc.ca] we have at the top of the political system at the moment.

    I think it's time for ordinary Canadian citizens (and anyone else in the world that wants to help) to start firing off enough requests to Canadian government scientific institutions that we can eventually overwhelm the pinheads in charge of "messaging" and they let us speak with the people doing the work. We used to be able to do that easily, but it has been getting worse and worse over the years. It has achieved truly ridiculous levels of obfuscation with the current government. Scientists should be allowed to speak their minds on scientific matters of public concern. It's good research being paid for with OUR tax dollars. Stop trying to hide it from us for the sake of "controlling the message". If you want to save money, fire the expensive idiots in charge of the "messaging". Scientists are quite capable of delivering a useful message if you let them do their jobs.

    If you ever wonder why scientific budgets in Canada continue to decline in terms of money available for research and scientific staff, but the "upper management" and "PR people" staff get bigger and bigger to manage the smaller pool of scientists, this is the answer. These people have nothing to do all day but spin the story to align with the politics of the day.

    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by eyenot (102141)

      Yeah, and, when you come under a DDOS attack, one quick decision you can make in the short term is ignore everything from a growing blacklist of attacking addresses. An even easier decision would be to ignore an entire block of addresses or, even more simply, ignore any service requests that have nothing to do with your company/organization/network focus and throttle back what services you're "supposed" to provide so you don't become "overwhelmed".

      Is that the future you're looking forward to? One where you

  • It probably has something to do with Canada's international affairs restrictions on the press and the sense of heightened security after it was discovered (immediately post 9-11) how easily terrorists could attack America through Canada's huger borders and therefore more lax security.

    That hardly makes it "security theatre". I think it's sort of fancy and maybe looks unnecessary in this context, but why ask for conessions where security is concerned? It's not like they strip-searched the press or had them tr

  • Par for the course (Score:5, Informative)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Friday April 20, 2012 @07:39PM (#39752183) Homepage

    Canadian government bureaucracies are a nightmare. About seven years ago I was working on a project where we needed access to some government data under similar circumstances. It ended up being a lot quicker going through the US State Department to request the data from the US Army Corps of Engineers than it was to get it from the Canadian government.

  • by slashdyke (873156)
    For all of you bashing Harper and his politicized government, non-profits and the rest of Canada, all I have to say is we got it right. Eleven or twelve people are working for the government rather than collecting Employment Insurance. Just think how many unemployed could be working in the states if Agencies such as NASA, used the same amount of manpower to answer questions like these. I am sure that would solve the economic slowdown we have been having.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If they don't know what you're doing, they don't know what you're doing wrong.
    -Sir Humphrey

  • You wonder why their government might panic at anything that even remotely hints as being climate-related? 100 billion reasons.
    • by jfengel (409917)

      Dammit, I was gonna joke about how that was only 85 billion American reasons, but right now the Canadian dollar is at almost perfect parity with the US dollar.

      Damn you, reality.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As a Canadian I can say that this is expected response from any government agency in Canada. You will never get a straight answer. Ever. And Harper is not to blame, sadly it's just cultural. People wonder why labor efficiency in Canada is low compared to the US and Europe -- it's because nobody can ever get an answer when they have some obstacle to resolve. You always get returned a few times because you filled out something "wrong", or it's another department responsible for what you want (which then sends

  • by russotto (537200) on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:19PM (#39752517) Journal

    I presume the NASA scientist was reprimanded for giving a straight answer without going through the press office?

  • Sounds like the bureaucracy did it's job perfectly.
  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:31PM (#39753267)

    Without knowing the chain they went through with NASA, it isn't really fair to compare the two experiences.

    Let's ignore the fact that the journalist decided to call the NRC at the very last minute for a bit of extra information, and look at what happened in the communication internally at the NRC.

    The NRC media arm was called, and unless the person at NRC in charge of that initial contact happens to know EXACTLY who to ask, there will invariably a flurry of back and forth communication internally, just as you see in the article.

    When you look through the emails (btw, I hate it when you are given a data dump like that - it's close to impossible to figure out where one email ends and another begins), you find that the original call is on March 1st at 09:30

    At 11:39 Manya Chadwick has an answer to the journalist, that needs to be signed off on.

    That's after 2 hours and 9 minutes. Over email. In my book that's a fantastic turn-around time. Keep in mind that it is extremely unlikely that the involved parties are ignoring everything else on their plate.

    Then at 14:03, Jonathan Ward has signed off on the text. That's 2 hours 24 minutes later. Again, for email, that's a fantastic turn-around time.

    And at 15:10 Tom Spears is sent his initial answer. That's 6 hours, 12 minutes.

    At 16:38 Tom Spears is given an extra update to the lines, pointing out that the NRC forgot to credit their partner CSA.

    At 09:47 on March 2nd Tom Spears writes back: "Thanks, but when NRC won't speak to me I can't guarantee to write the story the way you want it.". (Seriously? Less than an hour after he gets his answer, they send a tiny update because THEY MADE A MISTAKE, and he decides to be snarky like that?)

    The reporter didn't even bother to write back with a follow-up question or anything after he received the answer (only a "RECEIVED" message at 15:42). He didn't bother to ask if he could call someone or get a quick callback for anything.

    ---

    Let's go back to the question asked (technically no question is asked):

    I've read that a NASA mission in Southern Ontario ended yesterday, where they had aircraft taking measurements of snow. It also mentioned that NRC was involved using one of its Convair aircraft to assist with these measurements. I'm looking for someone to speak to this quickly - I already have most of my story, I'd just like to get a feel for NRC's involvement in the project.

    Now - since he's talking to Media Relations, he's obviously not going to be directly transferred to someone with intimate knowledge. That's just extremely unlikely to happen, unless (as I mentioned before) the person at NRC in charge of that initial contact happens to know EXACTLY who to ask.

    The inquiry, as it's written, is more along the lines of "I'd just like to get a feel for NRC's involvement in the project" (a question that is answered in the mail he received) than "Why do you want to study snow?", as the journalist says the hoped-for interview would have asked.

    My question is - what hoped-for interview? The initial inquiry was for information on NRC's involvement.

    Now - considering that he received the initial answer at 15:10, there would have been PLENTY of time for him to spend five minutes to compose an email along the lines of:

    Jonathan. Thank you for your answer, but I was hoping to get some time to ask some other questions about this study, preferably by phone. Like, say - WHY DO YOU WANT TO STUDY SNOW? Can you please have someone call me back ASAP on 613-596-3700?

    But no. Aparently it is not in a journalist's scope of work to ask followup questions. Or at least not Mr. Tom Spears's type of journalism. I mean - imagine the extra work it would take him to add those extra 243 characters to his email. I mean - that's almost two entire Twitter messages! The horror.

    ---

    So - what about the NASA thing?

    Note that "We phoned a NASA scie

    • Someone should add this to the summary.

      • Thank you, but adding this to the summary would be disingenuous.

        The summary is a summary of the article, and summarizes article quite well.

        My issue is with the article is that it's essentially a journalist getting his panties in a bunch, just because the NRC contact couldn't read his mind.

    • by kermidge (2221646)

      No mod points, sorry. Bravo!

    • Having worked with Canadian government scientists for some time, the truth is that any delays in response to the press are simply because people are trying too hard to get it perfect. Most are terrified of making a mistake for fear of being pilloried by the media, and that fear is justified. If replies take too long, the 'bureaucrats' are running interference. Make an honest mistake or oversight, the 'bureaucrats' are lying/covering up. It's depressing.

  • There is the thing and there is the management of the thing.

    When the thing itself is the management of the thing then an unstoppable cycle is created. It will eventually consume the human race.

  • They take their time in making decisions. And Canada has a lot of moose.

  • I don't see this as surprising.

    Civil Servants answer to political masters. If those political masters do not want or are cautious about the information in question, of course it is going to take a long time to get the requested answers. If the political masters do not care, or it is perceived as not an issue (or contentious), then it will take 15 minutes (depending on complexity of the question of course).

    Presumably the political masters answer to the people.

    So really they have no one to blame but themselve

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