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​​​​​Ben-Gurio​n Univers​ity of the Negev, 10 Janu​ary 2023​

Lorry I. Lokey Chemistry Building (43), Seminar Room (15)

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Perils for science in democracies and authoritarian countries

The symposium will discuss some prevalent dangers for science and technology in democratic countries. Science is affected by many societal factors, including the tendency for market principles to constrain academic values and render science a tool for application, marginalizing long-term oriented basic research. We will not discuss these factors here, but we focus on the decline of standards in education in many countries for various reasons, and on the risks to securing excellence in science through the principle of diversity and equity imposed by public opinion, administration, and mass media particularly in the United States but also in other countries.

While equal treatment and t​he system of merit based on individual achievements regardless of race, gender, and class have been longstanding guiding principles to reduce injustice and at the same time maintain high standards in science, 'diversity and equity' suggests or even mandates equality in terms of absolute numbers of people in specific subgroups. The resulting political pressure on individuals and institutions is not expected to lead to the same dire consequences as in authoritarian countries. However, according to many commentators, the damage done to careers and the downgrading of scientific standards will have serious long-term repercussions not only for individuals but for science as a whole. 

In order to provide a historical perspective, the symposium also reviews the impact of the implementation of racial principles into academia through anti-Jewish measures in Nazi Germany and selected cases of political interference with science in the USSR and post-Soviet Russia. The symposium examines examples from many disciplines and wider analyses of ideologically motivated interference with teaching and publishing today. It will discuss how placing group identity, in contrast to the maxim of equality of opportunity regardless of group membership, at the center of assessments, and the suppression of academic freedom have begun to endanger standards in science, mathematic, technology, and engineering in the US and other Western countries.