The Daily Evergreen

Editorial board: Separate industry and scientific discovery

University officials cannot be allowed to trample the voices of scientists when they conduct research

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Scientists should have the right to conduct research in their field of expertise without fear of retribution from their own institution.

Meaningful scientific inquiry should be encouraged purely by the need for discovery — it requires time, experimentation and review. This has not been the case in the College of Agriculture Human and Natural Resources Sciences, as interviews with faculty members revealed.

The Daily Evergreen believes the academic freedom of faculty is under attack and that it should be the priority of the university to protect and encourage independent research.

According to an Evergreen article that ran Tuesday, budget issues within the university seem to have placed unwarranted pressure on CAHNRS administrators to put the interests of business above academic freedom and quality research. Faculty morale has also seen a dive as the relationship between faculty and administrators has deteriorated.

Interviews revealed a “three strikes” policy, which led to requests for resignation or reputation-harming investigations and possible legal battles, which unfairly forced out tenured faculty.

This policy is blatantly immoral and has been used repeatedly as a tool to silence faculty and punish them for not bringing in enough funding through grants.

Administrators have allowed industry to interfere with scientific inquiry.

Groups, like the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, work on behalf of the interests of the industry by providing money to researchers. In return, the Commission expects scientists to conduct research that will benefit them.

WSU researchers’ first responsibility is not to rescue the university from its budget or reputation woes, but to expand the pool of knowledge in their area of study.

Tenure is designed to shield faculty from the pressures of academia and industry, and allow them focus on their work. Despite this, administrators have used the “three strikes” policy to go around tenure and punish professors.

Researchers have gone through years of education and are experts in their fields. Business, industry and financial pressure have been allowed to trample not only the work of respected faculty, but also the reputation of the college overall. Scientists should be allowed to study the areas they see as relevant to their field, not what will bring in the most profit and prestige to the university.

If WSU is to reach President Kirk Schulz’s “Drive to 25” goals, business interests cannot be prioritized over the independent research of our faculty.

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Editorial board: Separate industry and scientific discovery