WSU research another victim to political bias

Freedom of scientific studies is being prohibited by university’s ambition to favor external connections.


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Faculty members in research fear punishment and damage to their reputation from unwarranted investigations and accusations.

EDITORIAL BOARD, The Daily Evergreen

WSU has once again found itself in the line of fire regarding its lack of neutrality and bias toward scientific research conducted on campus. It is the goal of science to help us understand the world around us, but it is also the job of science to be removed from any influence on behalf of this goal. The administration of WSU has failed to uphold this standard of neutrality.

Recently, Robert Wielgus’s wolf research didn’t support the views of the local ranching community, while CAHNRS was under fire for research conflicting with the farming and food industries and external interests.

But instead of standing behind its faculty, WSU has decided to throw its researchers under the bus to prove to these communities that it is a team player with everyone but the people behind its own doors.

In 2017, the Evergreen reported that Donna Potts, WSU’s American Association of University Professors president, said she had interviewed about two dozen faculty members in CAHNRS, who feared punishment and reputation-harming investigations. This year, Wielgus was the latest victim to fall prey to such retaliation from the university.

WSU is not the first institution of higher education to cross these lines. We have seen this movement occur nationally with highly contested subjects involving corporate funding or political ideals, such as global warming, environmental and diet and health research.
Unfortunately, the incidents with CAHNRS and Wielgus’s wolf research have only proven that the university is nothing more than a corporation, catering to money, politics and other external pressures.

There is too much to be lost if research becomes a pet at the mercy of the wishes and financial incentives of politicians uneducated in the scientific discoveries being made.

Using state funds as leverage over the direction of the work done by highly-esteemed researchers at a state-funded university is a gross overstepping of boundaries that should exist between the political and scientific spheres, not to mention an unattractive blemish and a warning to scientists of the dangers they face if they dare to speak out against norms, even if they have evidence to back up their claims.

Whether these forces are internal or external, the problem is that they are finding a role in research where they are unwanted and unwarranted, and freedom in academic research should, in reality, be a right left untouched.

“This right implies also a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true,” famous scientist Albert Einstein said of academic freedom.
In addition to appearing as being directly in conflict with the goals lined out in President Kirk Schulz’s “Drive to 25” initiative, WSU must protect researchers as a valuable resource if it wants to consider itself among the upper echelons of higher education in America.

A university or a school that fails to protect their own cannot make any claims to prestige in the academic or scientific realms.

While bringing this information to our readers is essential for WSU’s community to remain aware and active against these administrative movements, we have to make the university recognize its mistakes as well. Biased research is dangerous and immoral, and research should remain untouched from outside influences.

This exposure of WSU’s mistakes is one step toward helping our administration realize the image it is destroying with its actions, but we as a community also need to step up and remind the university as well, or these actions are doomed to continue.