The New Zealand Association of Scientists has asked the Government to reconsider running publicly funded research bodies as companies after the sacking of climate scientist Jim Salinger.

The association, which represents scientists at universities, technical institutes, businesses and Crown Research Institutes, said the profit-driven structure of CRIs, including Dr Salinger's former employer, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), could undermine scientists' freedom of scientific expression.

"Scientific research and corporate models operating under commercial imperatives have been unhappy bedfellows since the science reforms in the early 1990s."

Scientists who have worked for CRIs and universities said there was greater freedom to speak out at universities, where freedom of speech is protected by law.

Dr Andy Reisinger, who has worked for Niwa and is now at Victoria University, said:

"Speaking to the media is a fundamental right for university scientists. CRIs, for better or for worse, are structured as corporate and there is pressure from corporate managers to fit that bill."

Former AgResearch scientist Dr Doug Edmeades said it was not always easy to tell if scientists from CRIs were speaking as publicly funded experts or salespeople for commercial products developed by their institutes.

Former Niwa scientist Dr Dave Lowe said working with the University of California and Victoria University in Wellington was "like a breath of fresh air" compared with "draconian" rules at CRIs.