Future Earth says scientific research integrity at risk from globalization backlash

Read a statement from Future Earth affirming our commitment to supporting international collaboration and the free movement of scientists and flow of data, information and knowledge for global sustainability.

The challenges facing humanity today are global. As the outbreak of the Zika virus in South America and recent droughts in countries from India to the United States have shown, environmental threats do not respect borders. For that reason, Future Earth has strived to generate and shape research in a truly global manner. We are proud to collaborate in networks of thousands of researchers and other professionals working internationally to produce knowledge and solutions. We pursue research to help people respond to natural disasters like droughts and hurricanes; to design and manage cities that are equitable and where residents are healthy; to sustain livelihoods and economies by helping communities and businesses to use natural resources in sustainable ways; to find new strategies for delivering food, water and energy to growing populations and more.

The modern world has been built on a foundation of scientists working across borders. However, a backlash against globalization and a rise in nationalist populism across the globe, along with growing anti-immigrant sentiment, are making it more difficult for scientists to conduct collaborative, international research. Many scientists are now concerned that their capacity to share ideas, innovations and data – both with each other and the public – are under threat by these trends.

As the world enters an uncertain era, Future Earth will continue to build international collaboration among scientists and non-scientists alike. We commit to supporting the free flow of data, information and knowledge for global sustainability and fact-based worldviews founded on the best available science. We also commit to supporting members of the global sustainability research community in nations where public access to reliable information is at risk and where scientists are being undermined or gagged on politically contentious issues. These issues include climate change and societal responses to that change.

We believe that these commitments are important because the challenges facing humanity demand that we tap the expertise of keen minds across the globe – regardless of their nationality, religion, sexuality or gender. We also recognize that migrants have long been the lifeblood of scientific research and many other fields central to sustainability, such as education and the arts. Nobel laureates Albert Einstein, Ahmed Zewail and Gerty Cori were all immigrants to the United States who made major advances in their research fields. Of the six researchers working in institutions in the United States that were awarded Nobel Prizes in 2016, none were born in the country. They are just a fraction of the migrants who have strived over the years, often behind the scenes, to improve human wellbeing.

International collaboration sits at the heart of scientific research. That is because the problems facing the world today are too big for any one nation to solve on its own. To that end, scientists must be able to learn from the successes and failures of their colleagues overseas, and through sharing their own. International collaboration and travel – to conduct field research or attend conferences – is indispensable for the research community, as is the free exchange of information and data.

The research community makes substantial contributions to the public good. Any policy that restricts the ability of scientists to conduct and communicate their research does not just inconvenience scientists. It also harms our ability as humans to innovate new solutions for the most pressing challenges facing the world. 

About Future Earth

Future Earth is an international science programme that seeks to generate the knowledge needed to build transformations to a sustainable world. We design and produce research across a range of fields and in collaboration with the people, groups and institutions who can best put the results to use. To learn more about Future Earth and our work, visit our website at www.futureearth.org.

For more information about this statement, contact Future Earth at contact@futureearth.org.