NRC scientist Scott Dallimore coauthored the study, published in the journal Nature on April 1, about a colossal flood that swept across northern Canada 13,000 years ago, when massive ice dams gave way at the end of the last ice age.
The study was considered so newsworthy that two British universities issued releases to alert the international media.
It was, however, deemed so sensitive in Ottawa that Dallimore, who works at NRC's laboratories outside Victoria, was told he had to wait for clearance from the minister's office.
Dallimore tried to tell the department's communications managers the flood study was anything but politically sensitive.
"This is a blue sky science paper," he said noting: "There are no anticipated links to minerals, energy or anthropogenic climate change."
But the bureaucrats in Ottawa insisted. "We will have to get the minister's office approval before going ahead with this interview," Patti Robson, the department's media relations manager, wrote in an e-mail after a reporter from Postmedia News (then Canwest News Service) approached Dallimore.
Robson asked Dallimore to provide the reporter's questions and "the proposed responses," saying: "We will send it up to MO (minister's office) for approval." Robson said interviews about the flood study needed ministerial approval for two reasons: the inquiring reporter represented a "national news outlet" and the "subject has wide-ranging implications."
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