In Russia, research facilities are now being required by the Russian government to submit all research papers to the security service and have them approved before they can be submitted for use in research conferences and academic journals.
The news comes as a law in the country was recently amended in order to protect state secrets.
Officials from the Russian government have stated that the amendment was not created to prevent the publication of non-military research. However, scientists across all fields of academia feel that they are being restricted.
Professor of bioinformatics at Moscow State University Mikhail Gelfand says, “This is a return to Soviet times when in order to send a paper to an international journal, we had to get a permission specifying that the result is not new and important and hence may be published abroad.”
Scientists in Russia have been under similar restrictions for a long time. Back in 1993, the Russian government introduced a law that required Russian scientists to obtain permission from the Federal Security Service before they could publish any research that could have military or industrial significance.
However, that scope has now been expanded to include any research that could be used in developing “new products”.
The law has not yet been adopted by every university and research facility in Russia, as some institutions are simply ignoring the mandate. Still, many institutions are now requiring that all research papers be approved prior to their publication in order to comply with the amendment.
Additionally, the rule applies to all subjects and staff without exception.
Russian scientists are not happy about the situation, but many of them are hesitant to speak out against the government.
Geographer Viacheslav Shuper says, “Many scientists in Russia don’t dare to speak openly. But I know that many are very unhappy about the degradation of their academic freedom.”
The process is said to be extremely burdensome for the scientists. It can be particularly troubling when the paper is written in a foreign language for international publication. In such cases, the scientists are forced to translate the entire paper into Russian so that the security service can read it.
The new policy is overall slowing down scientific innovation in the country.
Biologist Fyodor Kondrashov says, “The problem is that it appears that all scientific output is being treated as potentially classified. This creates an unhealthy research climate with some scientists preferring not to share information to not give a talk at a conference abroad, for example. I fear that the authorities will choose to apply this law selectively against their critics.”
Molecular biologist Konstantin Severinov adds, “Basically, anything new and potentially useful can now be interpreted to be a state secret.”
The mandate is extremely bad for the scientific community in Russia. The country was hopeful of having five of its top universities enter into the world’s list of top colleges by 2020.
Additionally, the country has been eager to attract leading foreign scientists to Russia. This new restriction not only slows down scientific innovation in the country, it also makes Russia extremely unattractive to top scientists. The country will have a very difficult time trying to achieve academic and scientific success with this policy.