Chemistry World: Suppression of academic freedom is a global crisis

In North America, we think mainly in terms of toxic snowflakes, of the sort that made it dangerous for their biology prof to be on campus. But elsewhere, it can be worse. From Maria Burke at Chemistry World:

Thousands of people in the higher education sector have been targeted in Turkey where state and university authorities continue to take sweeping measures in retaliation for alleged political links or content of research, publications or teaching. Punitive actions by the Turkish state have included imprisonment and prosecution; dismissal and expulsion of scholars and students; and restrictions on travel and institutional autonomy.

There have been many reports of widespread restrictions on academics’ travel. Over the past year, for example, Turkey has issued decrees stripping thousands of scholars of their passports. As the decrees led to the academics being fired and banned them from working at state institutions in Turkey, removing their passports also means they can’t continue their work, at home or abroad.

The report also highlights administrative actions in central and eastern Europe over the last year, which have threatened the autonomy of universities, including the Levada Center in Russia, the European University in St Petersburg, and the Central European University in Hungary. SAR believes the aim is to punish researchers or institutions for their affiliations, or content of research and teaching. More.

The United States recently withdrew from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), citing the rise in anti-Israel bias (put less politely, anti-Semitism). Israel is leaving too.

Here’s an idea: Every country that supports academic freedom and science as opposed to government crackdowns and identity politics should withdraw from UNESCO. Then, two decades from now, let’s evaluate the science output of the leavers vs. the remaining UNESCO members. Why isn’t that fair?

See also: Are wealthy, white, male mavericks part of science’s problem? Science can be productive as science or else as identity politics. One must choose.


Marchin’, marchin’ for Science (Hint: the problems are back at your desk, not out in the streets)