Something early in a scientist’s life makes him or her want to know about the world around him. For a biologist it was a curiosity about the life that surrounded him and a driving need to find out all about it. The road for most of us was long and full of sacrifices but after years of undergrad and postgraduate work, for a few, a lucky few, the holy grail of an academic position came their way.Lectures mix with research and the never ending quest for grant money to pay for the research, their salaries and those of their graduate students (slaves). Over the last 20 years grant money has become harder and harder to come by and some academics have chosen or been forced to choose between taking money from people with their own agenda in mind or doing something else with their lives. Some of these agendas you might agree with and some of them you might not. But, what happens is that if they take money from someone like BP it forces us to ask are they on the side of the truth or the money? Ever since Copernicus and before him, scientists have been at the knife point of politics. Politics with it’s money, privileges, power and the threat of their removal as punishment if you talked outside accepted doctrine. These were all arrayed as choices they were and are forced to make.With BP now under the gun for both civil and criminal damages in amounts that most of us have a hard time wrapping our minds around, they’re scrambling. Scrambling to get Gulf of Mexico marine scientists on their legal defense team. They’re using their immense financial resources to pay for information to be used to protect the company and and it’s masters. To legally mitigate our anger and frustration over a disaster that will hang around our necks for years to come.The contract marine scientists are required to sign by BP forbids they from releasing, publishing their research, sharing it with others or talking about what they have collected for three or more years.This type of work is allowed in most academic positions. Professors are allowed to work outside the university for a number of hours a week. Question is, should they, for whom and under what constraints?That may be too deep a question for now but perhaps we should know now which scientists are working on the side of BP? We should also remember that sometimes pay doesn’t come in the form of a check but rather paid “research” trips to exotic locations and lecture tours around Europe. Full disclosure of all types of funding should be a public part of an academic’s life or how are we to trust what they say ever again? “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”
Think Global – Act Local!