Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Self-censor In Response To Political Controversy, Survey Finds

Date:
November 18, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
A survey of scientists whose studies became the focus of a public debate about NIH grant funding has found that many of them engaged in self-censorship as a result of the controversy.

A survey of scientists whose studies became the focus of a public debate about NIH grant funding has found that many of them engaged in self-censorship as a result of the controversy. The study found that following the criticism of their research, scientists removed politically sensitive language from grant applications and stopped studying certain topics.

These self-censorship tactics were employed despite the fact that all of the criticised studies—most of which investigated sexual behaviour, drug-use, and other HIV-related questions—were defended in an NIH internal review and retained their funding.

Joanna Kempner of Rutgers University in New Jersey surveyed the researchers who were the subject of a debate in the US in July 2003, which began when a Congressional Representative proposed an amendment to rescind five NIH grants after publicly criticising the studies as "less worthy of taxpayer funding" than research into "devastating diseases." The amendment failed to pass but the controversy resulted in the internal review of more than 250 grants by the NIH, which concluded that each study was scientifically sound.

After conducting in-depth interviews with thirty researchers whose funding was reviewed, Kempner surveyed the principal investigators of all the studies. Only a third of the 82 respondents felt they were less likely to receive funding from the NIH in the future, but a majority reported undertaking strategies designed to disguise the most controversial aspects of their research. Half (51%) said they removed potential "red flag" words from the titles and abstracts of their grant submissions, including the words gay, lesbian, homophobia, anal sex, needle-exchange, and AIDS. Kemper reports that one interviewee said "I do not study sex workers, I study 'women at risk.'"

Almost a quarter of the researchers had either reframed their studies to avoid research on marginalized or stigmatized populations or had chosen to drop studies that were thought to be political sensitive, such as those on sexual orientation, abortion, childhood sexual abuse, and condom use. The survey also found that four of the principal investigators had made career changes and left academia as a result of the controversy.

Joanna Kempner stresses that the controversy also galvanized sections of the research community with 10% of respondents reporting a strengthened commitment to see their research completed, including those who had reported self-censorship practices. She says that the findings are a powerful example of how the political environment can shape what scientists chose not to study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kempner et al. The Chilling Effect: How Do Researchers React to Controversy? PLoS Medicine, 2008; 5 (11): e222 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050222

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Scientists Self-censor In Response To Political Controversy, Survey Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117203829.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, November 18). Scientists Self-censor In Response To Political Controversy, Survey Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117203829.htm
Public Library of Science. "Scientists Self-censor In Response To Political Controversy, Survey Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081117203829.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

China's Drone King Says the Revolution Depends on Regulators

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Comparing his current crop of drones to early personal computers, DJI founder Frank Wang says the industry is poised for a growth surge - assuming regulators in more markets clear it for takeoff. Jon Gordon reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
London Mayor Outlines 50-Year Vision Ahead of Population Rise

London Mayor Outlines 50-Year Vision Ahead of Population Rise

AFP (July 30, 2014) London Mayor Boris Johnson outlined his infrastructure plan for the British capital over the next 50 years on Wednesday, with a focus on how to cope with a population expected to reach 11 million. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins