President's page: Minorities


  • Allan Cox


Should Freedom of Research be added to Freedom of Speech as a fundamental human right? A petition affirming Freedom of Inquiry for scientists has been circulated by the National Academy of Sciences and is printed on page 69 for members who may wish to sign it. The petition has lain on my desk for some months now alongside an article by Jacques Cousteau objecting to research being done by geophysicists aboard the Glomar Challenger. Cousteau challenges our right to do geophysical research in Antarctic waters because he fears that this research will inevitably lead to the exploitation and environmental degradation of Antarctica. He is especially critical of geophysicists for refusing to accept responsibility for the effects their research has on society. The academy petition, on the other hand, is not concerned with the social context in which research is done but rather asserts that freedom to do research, to publish our ideas without censorship, and to travel freely are basic human rights. Although the academy petition was originally written out of concern for oppressed scientists in other countries, it and Cousteau's article raise some important general issues about freedom and responsibility in research.