Photo: Richard Wylie
Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom 10-Point Plan

Ten key areas for action emerged from the ESA’s research on science suppression. These actions were given general support by the ESA Board at the April 2020 meeting.

The ESA can begin to implement some of these actions immediately. Other actions need financial support and/or volunteer and research support to get underway – they cannot happen without additional input from ESA members.

The Academic Freedom Working Group therefore invites ESA members to join them to lead or contribute to implementing one or more of the key areas for action.

Please contact ESA Executive Officer Gail Spina for more information or to offer assistance (executiveofficer@ecolsoc.org.au).

Ten Point Plan for reducing science suppression in the ESA community

1. Promote independent environmental agencies

Promote independent environmental agencies, which are responsible for all environmental research, reporting and funding, including evaluation of legislation. Independence is critical to removing structural flaws that inevitably lead to politicisation of research and corruption. ESA would begin this project by first investigating existing work on these reforms by other organisations; those organisations may be in the best position to lead this initiative.

2. Preserve academic freedom for public-good research in university research contracts

Design clauses for university contracts with government and industry that protect academic freedom in public-good research, then encourage their adoption by universities and acceptance by government and industry.

3. Develop best practice academic freedom policies for universities. 

For example, a research project that evaluates the degree to which academic freedom policies in universities protect academic freedom – to highlight universities that are doing well, those with room for improvement and to recommend an ideal academic freedom policy.

4. Facilitate reforms in government codes of conduct to promote scientific integrity

Adapt the Canadian Code for Scientific Integrity in Australian public instrumentality jurisdictions and encourage adoption by governments.

5. Develop guidelines for accountable, independent environmental impact assessments.

For example, data sharing, peer review, and methods for assessing cumulative impacts. Undertake research in collaboration with end-users to reform EIA processes in ways that improve open, timely and honest production and sharing of data.

6. Develop, then promote, best-practice OHS regulations to limit personal trauma.

Define OH&S risks associated with science suppression across workplaces, translate into model policy, and identify pathways to implementation.

ESA actions

7. Provide ESA members with links to whistle-blower platforms.

In cases where the law is being broken and urgent media attention is needed, ESA can point members to the Guardian and ABC whistle-blower web sites.

8. Provide web-based portal for documenting cases of science suppression. 

ESA has developed an anonymous, web-based portal for accumulating evidence of science suppression and allowing annual reporting and targeted action. This can be found on our website here.

9. Facilitate media training to prepare ESA members for engaging with the media.

ESA is developing a range of options to provide training and guidelines to members on engaging with the media. These will be communicated to members when plans are more advanced.

10. Provide a network of support for scientists who speak up.

ESA is discussing options for providing background support to anyone who takes action or is thinking of taking action about Academic Freedom. This would include the capacity to ask for advice or assistance without identifying themselves if desired. More information will be released once finalised.

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