Opinie – Europese subsidies voor wapenonderzoek (be)dienen vooral militaire industrie

Nieuw opiniestuk van Slow Science in Mo*

Europese subsidies voor wapenonderzoek (be)dienen vooral militaire industrie

Vandaag, 27 juni, lanceren bezorgde wetenschappers en vredesorganisaties het Europese initiatief researchers for peace. Meer dan 700 onderzoekers uit 19 EU landen roepen hun collega’s op om zich uit te spreken tegen een Europees militair onderzoeksprogramma, dat donderdag en vrijdag op de agenda staat van de Europese regeringsleiders.

Met het Slow Science-netwerk ijveren we voor open, democratisch en duurzaam wetenschappelijk onderzoek. De huidige Europese plannen staan haaks op deze waarden.

Met de lancering van de “Preparatory Action on Defence Research” zette de Europese Unie in 2016 de eerste stappen naar het uitwerken van een Europees militair onderzoeksprogramma. De Europese Commissie heeft plannen voor een Europees Defensiefonds waarbij de komende jaren miljarden euro naar onderzoek en ontwikkeling van nieuwe wapens moet gaan. Uit een recent rapport van Vredesactie blijkt dat de wapenlobby een bepalende invloed heeft gehad op het proces dat leidde tot deze beslissing. Zoals te verwachten zijn de plannen dan ook op maat gesneden van de wapenindustrie.

De Europese Commissie stelt het Europees Defensiefonds voor als hét antwoord op de nood aan een Europees veiligheids –en defensiebeleid. Maar de EU slaat een belangrijke stap over: bepalen wat voor beleid ze voor ogen heeft. Dat is een politieke vraag. Pas als die beantwoord is, kan men de verdere vraag stellen hoe dit beleid het beste in praktijk wordt gezet. Hiervoor is kennis nodig, waar wetenschappelijk onderzoek een bijdrage kan leveren. Het soort kennis dat men hiervoor nodig heeft, is niet alleen militair van aard, maar ook economisch, sociologisch (en afhankelijk van het antwoord op de eerste vraag, ook ecologisch).

Het is alsof men de auto-industrie zou vragen om een mobiliteitsbeleid uit te werken voor Europa.

Wat men nu echter ziet is een compleet gebrek aan politieke visie. Iedereen lijkt het er over eens te zijn dat er een Europees veiligheidsbeleid moet komen, maar niemand stelt zich de verdere vraag wat dit beleid dan zou moeten inhouden. Het wetenschappelijk-technologisch onderzoek dat in de pijplijn zit, is bovendien ook niet van die aard dat het kennis oplevert die bijdraagt aan het beter uitvoeren van een politiek beleid of helpt in het uittekenen van ervan. Het vertrekt eerder van de aanname dat militair onderzoek door de privéindustrie het enige mogelijke antwoord is. Het is alsof men de auto-industrie zou vragen om een mobiliteitsbeleid uit te werken voor Europa. Uiteraard zal het “ideale” beleid er dan uit bestaan om te investeren in wegenbouw en geld te pompen in research & development uitgevoerd door de industrie zelf.

De belangen van de militaire industrie

De details van de financiering tonen bovendien hoe de huidige plannen enkel de belangen van de militaire industrie dienen. De EU financiert het onderzoek voor 100 %. De industrie zelf hoeft dus geen financiële bijdrage te leveren, maar krijgt wel de volledige intellectuele eigendomsrechten op de ontwikkelde technologie. Onderzoek houdt altijd een risico in: verwachte resultaten blijven soms uit, experimenten kunnen mislukken.

De samenleving betaalt de kosten van het risicovolle onderzoek, eventuele winsten worden volledig opgestreken door privébedrijven.

De motivatie die vaak gegeven wordt voor het toekennen van intellectuele eigendomsrechten is dat dit bedrijven en onderzoekers aanspoort om toch dit risico te lopen. Een geslaagde en gepatenteerde ontdekking kan namelijk de mogelijke mislukkingen meer dan compenseren. Wat we in het Europese plan echter zien, is een socialisering van het risico en het privatiseren van de winst: de samenleving betaalt de kosten van het risicovolle onderzoek, eventuele winsten worden volledig opgestreken door privébedrijven.

Als Slow Science onderzoekers roepen we de EU dan ook op om de belangen van haar burgers voorop te stellen, niet die van de militaire industrie. Om het beleid niet te laten bepalen door de militaire lobby, maar zelf politieke verantwoordelijkheid te nemen en democratische controle toe te laten. Om onderzoek te financieren dat bijdraagt tot een duurzame en veilige toekomst van de EU en niet louter de bankrekeningen van de militaire industrie spijst.

https://www.mo.be/opinie/europese-subsidies-voor-wapenonderzoek-bedienen-vooral-militaire-industrie

 

Slow interview #2 – An interview with Paolo Cherubini (part 2)

Author: Sofia Pagliarin

Why journal editorials are disappearing, and why we should care

Paolo Cherubini is a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL. He has been previously interviewed by Sofia Pagliarin as a collaborator of Slow Science when he shared some of his critical thoughts about the Impact Factor.

He is Editor-in-Chief of Dendrochronologia, an international scholarly journal publishing tree-ring science. Recently, he published an editorial about the rates of changes in scientific publishing and the “extinction” of editorials.

 

Sofia: Paolo, first of all thank you to be again with us.

Paolo: Thanks to you. Already 10 years ago I was thinking about the need to create a network about “slow science”, so I’m glad that it emerged and that I can contribute to it.

Sofia: It’s our pleasure! Anyway, let’s talk business. So are editorials as an introduction of a journal issue disappearing?

Paolo: In the old days, when journals were published on paper, editorials were an important part of a journal because they gave an opinion of the editor(s) on a certain topic possibly of interest for the readership of the journal. So you went to the library, you skimmed through editorials published on paper journals, and through published articles, too. Now, literature search is different. It’s digital, and scientists search and find exactly what they’re looking for. A readership of a journal almost doesn’t exist anymore, nobody takes a hardcopy of a journal in their hands, and nobody reads editorials anymore. The way of reading is also different. Everything is changing!

Sofia: …Changing?

Paolo: Well, the fact that editorials are disappearing also frees up editors’ time, so you do not lose time anymore by writing an editorial that nobody will ever read. What I am a bit worried about is the decrease of serendipity in academic research. But first I want to make a premise: I am one of those scientists who, despite having a high environmental awareness, still likes to print out papers, take notes and highlight stuff on them. Some of my colleagues make fun of me, but I think that reading papers digitally is quite another thing than reading them on paper. It’s not only a different feeling, it’s a different way to “study”, to get the content of the paper in your mind, and to use it possibly in your own research.

That said, when you looked at the editorial of a journal in your domain in the past, you also checked the table of contents. You certainly found stuff related to your own research, but you could also look through published articles in other topics, for instance about the flight trajectories of a butterfly of a certain species. Although now this might seem as waste of time, it was actually enriching, and it stimulated cross-fertilization in research, “side-thinking” and ability to make connections across topics. Now scientists are so specialised also because they have less opportunities to know what others are doing. ((Note to Freek: Reference Abbott’s digital paper for both a practical and sociological view on how to deal with these issues)

Sofia: Do you mean that nowadays researchers are behaving “badly”?

Paolo: No, not at all. But today’s researchers, especially the younger ones, when they look for a journal where to publish their own research, they look at the Impact Factor and publication time. So it’s a “fast science”, where editorials, as well as papers providing personal opinions, commentaries and ideas cannot survive. On the other hand, I think that, “fast science” can easily induce not-so-well-done peer-review.

It takes time and care to make a good peer-review process, while today researchers can opt to pay open-access journals to get their research online. This is not good for scientific research. Furthermore, it is obvious that a molecular researcher will have many more citations than a scientist working on a Himalayan beetle.

First, the size of the academic community for a certain topic affects the Impact Factor and number of citations. We are maybe 1000 dendrochronologists in the entire world, so our publications will never reach a very high number of citations. But is our research less relevant only because of this?

Secondly, and more importantly, how to judge the quality of the research? We may argue that research on the Himalayan beetle has its good relevance. The Impact Factor is a quantification of the utility, not a proof of quality, and less so of how relevant the performed research is.  Or better, other measures complementary or alternative to the Impact Factor should be developed that can account for the topic and certain characteristics of the academic domain. Similarly, the Impact Factor should not be used – or at least not solely – to hire or not people: hiring a new person in a research group is not only about choosing “Impact Factor Stars” – people with many top publications – but it is also necessary to have the sensitivity to weight other aspects, for instance if this person made other contributions (media, software, events, and so on) and on her/his personality, how it would fit to the research group overall. But these aspects are of course not so easily quantifiable as with the number of citations.

Sofia: Do you think that there is an “antidote”?

Paolo: As I said, the Impact Factor should be considered one of the possible measures of scientific research, and possibly not applicable to all the scientific disciplines. Other measures should be developed which are domain-specific, and at best which can also include qualitative assessments of the research. So I urge scientists to work on this and to propose other measures than Garfield’s Impact Factor, which was created to evaluate different journals basing on their utility.

Sofia: Thank you for your time and for sharing your experience Paolo.

Paolo: My pleasure!

 

Disclaimer:  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Slow Science.

 

Debate role of universities – Monday April 23rd at deBuren, Brussels

Dutch follows English

Dear all,

On Monday April 23rd , deBuren in collaboration with KU Leuven, UA, UGent and VUB are organizing a debate on the democratic legacy of 1968 and the role of universities then and now. The debate is organized as part of the doctoral school course “What does it mean to be a researcher in 21st century academia?”, but it is open to a broader audience. For everyone interested in slow science and/or the societal role of universities, this event is not to be missed!

You can find all relevant information via the website of deBuren: https://www.deburen.eu/programma/4603/de-democratische-erfenis-van-68-waar-staat-de-universiteit-vandaag

 

Practical information:

Monday April 23rd, 19h30-21h
deBuren
Leopoldstraat 6, Brussels

Tickets (5€/3€) are available through the website. The event is free for those who follow the workshop.

 

We hope to meet you there!

 

——–

Beste allen,

Aanstaande maandag organiseert deBuren in samenwerking met KU Leuven, UA, Ugent en VUB een debat over de democratische erfenis van 1968 en de rol van de universiteit, zowel toen als nu.

Het debat kadert in de doctoral school workshop “What does it mean to be a researcher in 21st century academia?” maar is open voor publiek. Voor iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in slow science en/of de maatschappelijke rol van universiteiten is dit een niet te missen evenement!

Meer informatie is te vinden op de website van deBuren: https://www.deburen.eu/programma/4603/de-democratische-erfenis-van-68-waar-staat-de-universiteit-vandaag

 

Praktische informatie:

Maandag 23 april, 19u30-21u
deBuren
Leopoldstraat 6, Brussel

Tickets (5€/3€) zijn te verkrijgen via de website. Het debat is gratis voor wie de workshop volgt.

 

We hopen jullie daar te mogen verwelkomen!

UCU strike in the UK and how to help

At the moment, the University and College Union (UCU) organizes a strike to fight against the new pension plans. A majority of UK academic institutions are taking part in this strike. For more information and latest updates about the strike:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/strikeforuss

This issue is also relevant for the broader slow science movement, as it is part of the marketization of universities. To give only one but very pertinent example: final pensions would depend on how the stock market performs, not on contributions.

As one of the strikers puts it:

“The real problem behind pensions is this: Universities have borrowed billions in bonds to spend on fancy new buildings – they are becoming property developers. These bonds are then traded on the financial markets so that the more they are ‘de-risked’ the more they are worth. De-Risking the pension to the extent that its modelled on all universities going bust simultaneously isn’t a realistic expectation, but it is a theoretical risk that when transferred to individual academics increases the bond’s value. We are losing our pension security to make more money for bankers in other words.”

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  • You can tweet your messages of support to @UCU (union nationally) or to the local initiatives of different universities.

 

  • Donate to the fighting fund of UCU: there are lots of precarious, early career academics, and single parents on strike who will need financial support for the wages they are losing. https://www.ucu.org.uk/fightingfund

 

  • The Southampton University, in the midst of the strike, has received an email to make sure to ‘prioritize the partner organisations of Southampton University as part of the Internationalisation Strategy’, of which KU Leuven is apparently the number 2 partner. Therefore we want to use this internationalization strategy to show our solidarity with our colleagues. We would like to collect pictures of you showing a card/paper with (something like) “I support my colleagues in the UCU-strike @ Southampton University [name, university]”. This will only take 5 minutes of your time, but it would be really great if we can collect a big number of pictures. They will be shown on the website of those who strike in Southampton. Of course, scholars from KU Leuven are especially encouraged, but a broad support from all colleagues is highly appreciated. You can send your picture to Valerie, and they will be sent collectively to the UCU strikers @ Southampton.

 

  • Boycott the institutions from this list, as they engage in punitive behaviour during and between strike days

 

  • All universities could benefit from your support, so please reach out to any of your colleagues on strike at the moment and ask how you can help them. We can post the actions on our website or help circulate through other means.

 

 

Universiteit Gent Women’s Strike 2018

WOMEN’S STRIKE Ghent University 2018
#WOMENSTRIKEUGent2018

The official website of the event is now available:
https://womenstrikeugent.wixsite.com/2018

Please read the demands and sign the petition:
https://womenstrikeugent.wixsite.com/2018/blog

We willen onze eisen kracht bijzetten door een feministische actie te organiseren op 8 maart 2018: Overeenkomstig de loonkloof, zullen we een “walk-out” organiseren om 15u27. Studenten en docenten worden gevraagd om de lessen te staken en samen met andere personeelsleden en sympathisanten te verzamelen voor het rectoraat, alwaar we graag een open “mic” willen houden, met koffie en een vieruurtje.
Wij hopen dat de Women’s Strike massaal op uw steun kan rekenen!

We want to assert our demands with a feminist action on March 8 2018: a walk-out at 15h27, symbolising the general gender pay gap (on average a woman is paid from 8h00 until 15h27 compared to a fully paid full work day of a man). Students and lecturers will be asked to leave their classes and join other staff and sympathizers at the rectorate, where we will hold an open “mic”, with coffee and a 4 o’clock snack.
Let’s stand together and strike for another university and a more equal and diverse community!

Our demands:

TO THE RECTOR AND VICE-RECTOR OF UGENT:

We strongly support your commitment to a more participatory and inclusive university, as expressed in your election campaign. We want to join you in working actively towards a more diverse and stress free workplace, with equal opportunities for all. We would like to remind you of our demands and propose the following actions:

1. DEDICATION TO EQUALITY

All deans and 75% of professors are men, and a majority of cleaning staff are women and people of colour. Let’s end sexual and racial segregation in all jobs and eradicate bias and privilege in recruitment:
elevate the minimum wages at our university!
stop the outsourcing of service jobs to put an end to precarious working conditions
install quota to increase the number of female professors to at 50%
develop programs to eradicate the barriers for underprivileged and minority groups in entering and continuing in the university

2. NO MORE SILENCE ABOUT VIOLENCE

Racist, sexist, ableist, trans- and homophobic discrimination have no place at the university. Let’s not be part of the silent majority that enables this kind of violence and speak up for one another! An open debate and transparent policy that takes unequal power relations at the university into account is the urgent and necessary thing to do.
set up an anonymous contact point and consultation centre to report not only sexual harassment but all discrimination and/or violence in the workplace!
mandatory gender and diversity training for all tenured staff!
unfund any organisation that promotes any form of discrimination or violence!

3. SAY YES TO LESS STRESS

Good-quality work requires healthy workers with a good work-life balance. We want “slow science” instead of “publish or perish.” Let’s reduce burnouts by reducing working hours, (administrative) demands, unpaid tasks and pointless competition for scarce funds.
promote a culture of collaboration and care instead of competition and control!
reform the current career model and system of personal goals!
Work towards reform the financial allocation model for higher education

4. LET’S PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH

Ghent University proclaims to be a socially committed, pluralistic university, with critical thinking as its baseline. Let’s practice what we preach and actively work towards a more caring and diverse university:

we want more effective support for maternity, parent, caring and sickness leave, for all levels, all contracts!
reinstate the recently abolished coverage of anti-conception and abortion by the UGent health insurance plan!
decolonize the university by funding relevant programs and courses and promote feminist and postcolonial mentality that embraces differences!

universiteit gent women's strike