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14th CFRS Meeting (May 2013)

At its meeting in Montreal, Canada, on 9-10 May 2013, the ICSU Committee on Freedom and Responsibility in the conduct of Science (CFRS) considered the following key issues:

Engagement in the 3rd World Conference on Research Integrity (WCRI)

CFRS’s remit includes the promotion of research integrity. It was therefore engaged in the organisation of the 3rd WCRI in Montreal on 5-8 May and several members presented the Committee’s work on aspects of the rights and responsibilities of scientists. The “Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations” is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.

“Muzzling” of scientists and academic freedom

There are a number of pressures on scientific autonomy around the globe. One example is the reported “muzzling” of scientists employed by the Government of Canada. CFRS agreed to start an initiative on “academic freedom” by exploring the relationship between academia and politics.

Dual use research

In October 2012, the Australian Parliament approved the Defence Trade Controls Act that is designed to streamline trade in defence-related technology and know-how. This legislation could potentially hinder progress in many areas of academic research. This example illustrates the broader issue of how tightened security can have a negative impact on the conduct of research.

Advice regarding international scientific meetings and visa issues

The CFRS online “Freedom and Responsibility Portal” provides recommendations for organisers of scientific meetings, including advice on how to deal with visa issues. The amended document draws attention to the need to verify well in advance whether travel to a meeting destination involves passing through countries that require transit visas. This is particularly important for travel via the United States, the Schengen Area with 26 European countries and the United Kingdom.

Valentin Danilov released from prison

The Russian physicist Valentin Danilov was released from prison in November 2012 after having been detained since February 2001 on charges of treason and fraud. Concerned about the judiciary’s original handling of this case, CFRS was one of a number of international organisations that had been advocating to the government for his release.

Science assessment workshop in Beijing

Jointly with the China Association of Science and Technology (CAST) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), CFRS agreed to co-sponsor a workshop on science assessment in Beijing in April 2014. China is an interesting case study as its science system is developing so rapidly and its experiences could be relevant for many other countries.

Scientists and science under attack

Alerted by a case in which activists recently occupied animal experiment facilities at the University of Milan, Italy, and by the situation of a leading UK scientist who faced a sustained campaign of attacks because of his scientific views on myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, CFRS reasserted its position that harassment and violence against scientists because of the conduct or communication of their work is not acceptable.

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