Putin likes to read your manuscript

Nieuws | de redactie
22 oktober 2015 | President Putins government is cracking down on innovation in science in order to control its outcomes. “Anything new and potentially useful can now be interpreted to be a state secret,” a biologist form the prestigious Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology says.

In Nature it is reported, that the Russian government is demanding insight in all scientific publications because of an amended law on state secrets, but has said that the amendment is not designed to restrict the publication of basic, non-military research.  “This is a return to Soviet times when in order to send a paper to an international journal, we had to get a permission specifying that the result is not new and important and hence may be published abroad,” says Mikhail Gelfand, a bioinformatician at MSU.

President Vladimir Putin used a decree last May to expand the scope of the law on nuclear reserach an military R&D in order to make the development of “new products” part of this legal restrictions. After this Russian universities and institutes are reported to demand that manuscripts must be submitted to stateorgans before publications in journals and other scientific media.

Without exception

This is visible in the leaked minutes from the one of such institutes. “Be reminded that current legislation obliges scientists to get approval prior to publication of any article and conference talk or poster.” Such rules are said to apply to any publication or conference, foreign or national, and to all staff “without exception”.

The First Department — a branch of the FSB that exists at all Russian universities and research institutes will have to vet all this. Moscow State Uni geographers have been given similar instructions, Nature notes.

Degradation of freedom

“Anything new and potentially useful can now be interpreted to be a state secret.” researchers  say. “Many scientists in Russia don’t dare to speak openly. But I know that many are very unhappy about the degradation of their academic freedom.”

Fyodor Kondrashov from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona says to Nature: “The problem is that it appears that all scientific output is being treated as potentially classified. This creates an unhealthy research climate with some scientists preferring not to share information — not to give a talk at a conference abroad, for example. I fear that the authorities will choose to apply this law selectively against their critics.”

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