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Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom Working Group invites ESA members and others to take action aimed at reducing science suppression in Australia

Last month, the results of an industry-wide survey on science suppression in Australia, coordinated by the ESA’s Academic Freedom Working Group, were published in Conservation Letters.

The survey found that:

  • Around half of industry and government respondents and over a quarter of university respondents reported suppression of advice on threatened species.
  • Almost 40 per cent of industry respondents reported gagging related to mining, urban development or clearing native vegetation.
  • A quarter of government respondents reported gagging regarding logging and climate change.

These results highlight that there is more work to be done to address this insidious problem and improve conservation outcomes. There are many ways forwards, initially guided by a 10-Point Plan of actionThe Academic Freedom Working Group needs people to lead a range of initiatives to help alleviate the pressures on open communication of science and ecology-based advice. 

Initiatives you could lead or participate in include;

  • Evaluate academic freedom policies in universities (e.g. as part of a PhD or post-doc project) and develop best-practice policies.  Develop pathways to impact through collaborations and networks.
  • Coordinate or participate in a public service working group to evaluate codes of conduct and adapt the Canadian Code of Scientific Integrity to suit Australian state governments. Develop pathways to adoption.
  • Evaluate Occupational Health and Safety issues around science suppression, develop best practice policy and a pathway to implementation.
  • Evaluate pathways for ecologists, the ESA and other organisations to contribute to improved environmental governance, including independent environmental agencies.

To make progress in these areas, we are calling for volunteers to help out and to take on leadership roles. Please contact d.driscoll@deakin.edu.au to discuss how you can be involved.

If you wish to document a current case of science suppression in Australia, please fill in our form.

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