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International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies
Barriers to the Universality of Science, Including BoycottsDiscussion leaders: Yuan T. Lee and Michael Clegg
Yuan T. Lee, President, Academia Sinica, Taiwan – Good afternoon. I’m Y.T. Lee. He is Michael Clegg [Foreign Secretary, U.S. National Academy of Sciences]. Since he is speaking about the boycott, I will speak first.
When I was a student at Berkeley, when George Pimentel came to give us an afternoon seminar, he always said, if you guys don’t fall asleep, there is something wrong. You must not have been working very hard the previous night. So, it’s okay if you fall asleep.
We are talking about barriers to the universality of science. When we talk about the universality of science, very often scientists will say that the law of nature discovered by someone, somewhere, will be universally applicable anywhere. For example, the Photoelectric Effect, discovered by Einstein 100 years ago. But, unfortunately, universality of science really doesn’t mean that.
Six months ago the International Council for Science (ICSU) revised the wording on the Statute No. 5, the Universality of Science. Before we go into the barriers, I will read it very quickly:
The principle of the Universality of Science is fundamental to scientific progress. This principleembodies freedom of movement, association, expression, and communication for scientists aswell as equitable access to data, information, and research materials. In pursuing its objectivesin respect of the rights and responsibility of scientists, the International Council for Science(ICSU) actively upholds this principle, and, in so doing, opposes any discrimination on the basisof such factors as ethnic origin, religion, citizenship, language, political stance, gender, sex orage. ICSU shall not accept disruption of its own activities by statements or actions thatintentionally or otherwise prevent application of this principle.
That is the revised wording given by ICSU six months ago, in November 2004.
Four months later, ICSU also made a statement called Universality of Science in a Changing World. In addition to the importance of the universality of science, it mentioned threats to universality because of the freedom of association and freedom of pursuit in science. When you read it, you will realize that it is really paying more attention to the practices of science itself and the right of scientists. Toward the end, the paper talks about “strengthening science for the benefit of society.”
If you look at the document prepared by ICSU a bit earlier, in July 2004, it talks about the rights and responsibilities of science in society. In section 2.1.1. it discusses equity access and challenges to universality, and many other issues are raised. Among the issues are the distribution of scientific resources and information. Then there are intellectual property rights and how they are influencing the sharing of knowledge and technology, as well as new security issues. The growth of research in the private sector raises questions about the ethics of