High science journal ‘Nature’ vows politics protection over rising political interference in science


Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 19

Nature, the world’s leading multidisciplinary science journal, has, in its latest edition, pledged to devote more time and space to political news, citing growing pressure on scholarly autonomy from politicians worldwide.

What Nature argues

  • The principle that the state will respect scholarly independence is one of the foundations underpinning modern research, and its erosion carries grave risks for standards of quality and integrity in research and policymaking. When politicians break that covenant, they endanger the health of people, the environment and societies.

It its editorial titled ‘Why Nature needs to cover politics now more than ever’, the journal editors said the trust between researcher and politician—that each will honour autonomy and keep to their word—is under considerable pressure around the world and political interference in science is growing.

To make its case, Nature cites instances from around the world of the pressures on scholarly autonomy including the 2019 letter of over 100 leading economists to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, “urging an end to political influence over official statistics — especially economic data — in the country.”

Scholarly autonomy is under threat and even more troubling are signs that politicians are pushing back against the principle of protecting scholarly autonomy, or academic freedom, the Journal argues.

It speaks of how last year Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro sacked the head of the country’s National Institute for Space Research because the president refused to accept the agency’s reports that deforestation in the Amazon has accelerated during his tenure.

Just last week, in Japan, incoming Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga rejected the nomination of six academics, who have

previously been critical of government science policy, to the Science Council of Japan.

“This is an independent organization meant to represent the voice of Japanese scientists,” Nature said, highlighting in the latest edition incumbent US President Donald Trump’s “troubled legacy with science” and what the outcome of America’s presidential race could mean for science.

Nature said COVID pandemic is uncovering examples of political interference in science, recalling how in June in the United Kingdom, the statistics regulator wrote to the government, highlighting repeated inaccuracies in its COVID-19 testing data, which the regulator says seem to be aimed at showing “the largest possible number of tests”.



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