Panel, from the left: Richard Sannerholm, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Beatrice Crona and Andrea Pető. Click to enlarge. Photo: Erik Thor/Young Academy of Sweden
For the World Science Day the state of academic freedom and liberal democracy in Europe was acknowledged at a symposium hosted by The Swedish National Commission for UNESCO and The Young Academy of Sweden. First hand experiences from Hungary and Turkey were shared on stage and from the audience. Also Swedish researchers spoke of tendencies of self-censorship when analyzing sensitive information.
Interview (Swedish) with Richard Sannerholm The Swedish National Commission for UNESCO (please google, url malfunctioning)
Jonas Olofsson (Young Academy of Sweden member) and Richard Sannerholm (UNESCO, Director for ILAC) introduced the symposium. The Academy's Staffan I. Lindberg gave a crash course on the state of democracy and academic freedom, and stated that the development is indeed very worrysome. The Vice Chancellor of Stockholm University Astrid Söderbergh Widding underlined the importance of universities to firmly stand up for their unique role and contribution to society. Professor Andrea Pető spoke about the difficult conditions for the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest in general, and for gender studies in particular. In both subtle and direct ways the CEU's research has been obstructed, forbidden or even forced to move departments abroad by the government. The Academy's alumni Beatrice Crona outlined several difficulties she and her co-authors ran into while doing research into multinational corporations financial flows and their effect on the environment. For example they needed ot consult three legal teams, and to think through what risks they might impose on doctoral students involved in the study. Marco Nilsson (Jönköping University) and Olga Selin Hünler (Bremen University) described the spiralling situation for researchers in Turkey, where the government has forced a purge and made several thousand researchers to not only leave research but in many cases also loose their social benefits and possibility to make a living. Andrea Pető explained that she has found the threat to academic freedom to be very real. It stems both from states with autocratic tendencies; flipped into enemies against their own citizens, Pető referred to the concept of the 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes called the Leviathan, and from global, powerful corporations. Moderator Helena Lindholm (Professor in Social Sciences at Gothenburg University and Chair of the Expert Group for Aid Studies, EBA, a Government committee) led the symposium.
1. Welcome address by Anna Wetterbom, CEO Young Academy of Sweden 2. Jonas Olofsson and Richard Sannerholm introduce the symposium. 3. Richard Sannerholm. Click to enlarge. Photo: Erik Thor/Young Academy of Sweden
1. Vice Chancellor Astrid Söderberg Widding 2. Democracy expert Staffan I. Lindberg 3. Andrea Pető, the Central European University in Budapest. Click to enlarge. Photo: Erik Thor/Young Academy of Sweden
1. Moderator Helena Lindholm 2. Beatrice Crona outlined several difficulties she and her co-authors ran into whlie doing research into multinational corporations financial flows and their effect on the environment. 3. Marco Nilsson and Olga Selin Hünler discuss the situation for scientists in Turkey. Click to enlarge. Photo: Erik Thor/Young Academy of Sweden
The human right to participate in and benefit from science is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. The 2017 UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers further states that academic freedom lies at the very heart of the scientific process, and provides a strong guarantee of the accuracy and objectivity of scientific results.
Today when academic freedom is challenged in some countries and disciplines, it is urgent to highlight and discuss how researchers, universities, academies and governments may support fellow researchers and safeguard academic freedom globally.