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In Brief: Weaponising the Research Community

In Brief: Weaponising the Research Community

The Ukrainian national flag is seen through the window of an apartment destroyed during Russia’s invasion, Borodianka, Kyiv region, May 13, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Vladyslav Musiienko

Some 46% of Russians firmly support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a poll of 1,640 adults conducted on February 28 and March 1. By this time, Putin’s government had arrested more than 5,000 anti-war protestors even as more than 4,000 scientists and science journalists in Russia had penned a letter to Putin to step back from the war because it was a “cynical betrayal” of the memory of their forefathers who had fought against Nazism.

Then, late in April, Bloomberg reported that “the Biden administration has a plan to rob Vladimir Putin of some of his best innovators by waiving some visa requirements for highly educated Russians who want to come to the US, according to people familiar with the strategy.”

The offer came on the back of calls by some journals as well as Ukrainian scientists to boycott the work of their Russian counterparts. Isolating the Russian government for its actions in Ukraine is fair – but what is the point of isolating those who remain opposed to these actions, those whose fate Putin hasn’t seemed concerned about?

On May 5, Joseph Esposito went a step further and wrote:

… what is the meaning of academic freedom when the academy is itself put to work for the benefit of an imperial power determined to hold sway over another imperial power?

It has already been observed, most eloquently by Lisa Hinchliffe and Roger Schonfeld on The Scholarly Kitchen, that the dream of a collaborative global order for academic research is being disrupted by the events in Ukraine. Fragmentation of the scholarly community is one thing, however; pitting empires against one another, and conscripting researchers, takes matters to a new level. On the other hand, one can argue, as we did in The Brief, that it was ever thus, that the notion of a global research community, like that of a global market, was a creature of a specific time and place, and things have moved on.

If that is true, it may be a good time to think about the implications for various elements of this community. For example, what does cOAlition S look like when mapped against a world where biologists are smuggled out of Moscow and dropped down in Berkeley? In whose political interest is Open Access when world powers are attempting to deny rivals of … human capital …?

Read his full article here, on The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

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