Upholding a dynamic interaction between science and the public

The Royal Institution joins 45 leading science organisations in a letter to European policy makers to highlight that an open exchange of people and ideas is crucial for science.

  • The Royal Institution of Great Britain

    Credit: Tim Mitchell

For over 200 years the Royal Institution’s core purpose has been to promote and uphold a healthy and dynamic interaction between science and the public. Our founding documents talk about the importance of both the ‘diffusion of knowledge’ and the ‘introduction of useful mechanical inventions and improvements’ to the public. And on the topic of engaging the public in scientific discourse, Lawrence Bragg once wrote:

I believe that it is our duty, in return for the support we are given, to render an account of our stewardship which is readily understandable by our fellow men, who are intelligent and shrewd although they may not be familiar with all our technical terms

So when EuroScience sent us the open letter they had prepared to send to various European policy makers regarding recent decisions by US President Donald Trump's administration, one of their concerns particularly resonated with us:

Indications that government scientists might be affected by new administration policies limiting their communication with the press, policymakers or society at large, and that government scientists would require permission from superiors to publish

In view of the fact that our founding principles rest on the ability of scientists to have a dialogue with the public, we are proud to sign this letter to share our concerns about any policies which limit this ability of scientists to speak openly. 

Here is the open letter and the list of current signatories in full.

European science organisations: maintain transparency, open communication and mobility of scholars and scientists

 

We, as European organisations involved in science (which for us includes the social sciences and humanities), research, education and innovation, benefit from and wish to defend the open exchange of ideas and people, which constitutes the foundation of scientific endeavour.

From our multiple contacts with scientists, researchers and organisations in the USA and around the world we are aware of the anxiety among our colleagues concerning the impact of the ongoing policy reorientation under President Donald Trump and his administration. We are particularly concerned about the following developments:

  • The Executive Order discriminating against persons because of their nationality;
  • Indications that government scientists might be affected by new administration policies limiting their communication with the press, policymakers or society at large, and that government scientists would require permission from superiors to publish;
  • The unwarranted credibility to views not based on facts and sound scientific processes and evidence in areas such as climate science or the safety of vaccines.

All of these are at odds with the principles of transparency, open communication, and mobility of scholars and scientists, which are vital to scientific progress and to the benefit of our societies, economies and cultures derive from it. Restrictions on research, scientists and research centres in inconvenient areas have no place in science.

Our colleagues working in the US will suffer, the United States and US citizens will pay a price, as will Europe and Europeans, and countries and people all across the globe. Facing unprecedented challenges the world needs solid science and research resulting from an open scientific process in which scientists, researchers, students and innovators can freely exchange approaches and results, and can move from country to country to study and work where their contributions are most valuable.

We call upon European governments and the European Commission to uphold the principles and values that underpin scientific progress, to work with their counterparts in the US administration to maintain a global science system based on these principles and to take any measure at the national and European levels to preserve and increase the world’s scientific and research capacity. These principles and values have been and will remain vital for our societies, economies and cultures to flourish.

List of signatories

Academia Europaea

Accademia delle Scienze di Torino

ALLEA (ALL European Academies)

British Biophysical Society

Citizens of Academia, Poland

Danish National Committee for Biophysics

Young Academy of Belgium

EPSO, European Plant Science Organisation

Eurodoc

European Association of Social Anthropologists

European Association of Social Psychology

European Biophysical Societies' Association

European Crystallographic Association

European Educational Research Association

European Mathematical Society

European Physical Society

President and Executive European Science Foundation

European Society for Gene and Cell Therapy

European Society of Endocrinology

European University Association

EuroScience

Executive Committee of Turkish Biophysical Society

Federation of European Neuroscience Societies

French Biophysical Society

German Biophysical Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Biophysik)

International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA)

Informatics Europe

Italian Society of Pure and Applied Biophysics

LERU, League of European Research Universities

Marie Curie Alumni Association

Portuguese Biophysical Society

Pan European Region of the International Association for Dental Research

Polish Women Scientists Network - Fundacji Kobiety Nauki

Real Sociedad Matemática Española

ROARS (Return On Academic ReSearch, Italy)

Science Europe (Association of European Research Funding Agencies and Research Performing Organisations)

Scientists for EU

Sense about Science EU

Societas biochemica, biophysica et microbiologica Fenniae

Spanish Biophysical Society

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences

The Royal Society

The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters

The Royal Institution of Great Britain

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences KNAW

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

 

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