International Organizations like ICA have a common fundament of values and overall missions. Those values are steered and influenced by the International Council of Science (ICSU). ICSU was founded in 1931 to promote international scientific activity in the different branches of science and its application for the benefit of humanity. ICA is currently in the status of a Scientific Associate and we have taken steps to become a full scientific member.
One of the pillars of the work of ICSU is reinforcing the Universality of Science. This means, that scientists anywhere, of any age, discipline and background possess the freedom and the means to participate freely (and responsibly!) in global science.
Two related issues of concern that have recently been on the agenda of the ICSU Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) have been distributed from ICSU just recently, which I would like to share with you:
- ‘Muzzling’ of scientists and scientific institutions
Freedom of expression and communication are fundamental to the furtherance of scientific inquiry for the benefit of society. A number of recent incidents in different countries suggest that both of these ‘rights’ may be at risk. In particular, there have been several cases where public sector scientists have been prevented from talking to the media on topics that fall within their expertise but where their views are not necessarily in accord with Government policies. We are seriously concerned by this trend of increased pressure on both individual scientists and academic institutions to only say what is politically acceptable.
- Protection of whistle-blowers
CFRS previously argued that the self-correcting nature of science requires that policies and mechanisms be in place to protect whistle blowers. Scientists have a duty to expose fraudulent information and/or misconduct, particularly where this concerns health and environmental risks. However, this can only be expected to happen if institutions accept responsibility for protecting whistle blowers and have procedures for dealing with their allegations. There are indications that this is not always happening and that, whilst scientists are aware of cases of misconduct, including fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, from colleagues, they are very reluctant to report them.