Go back

Goma volcanologists rally behind whistleblowers

Image: MONUSCO Photos [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Scientists back allegations of unequal partnerships at DRC observatory

More than 50 scientists and technicians working at the Goma Volcano Observatory in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have signed a letter backing allegations made in early June of mismanagement and neocolonial science practices at the institution.

In the 23 June letter the signatories “validate the facts described” in the memorandum sent by a union representative of GVO staff to the president of the DRC earlier last month, insofar as they accused the institute’s foreign partners of dictating its research agenda.

That letter urged the president to look into problems of alleged “neocolonial science” experienced at the institution. It also called into question management practices at the observatory itself.

The original letter, dated 2 June, received broad media coverage including by Research Professional News, which invited senior managers at the observatory to respond to these claims but did not receive a reply. Representatives of the GVO’s partners in Belgium and Luxembourg strongly denied the allegations, and queried the level of support for the letter.

In this week’s letter, the 52 scientists and technicians attest that representatives from GVO met the DRC’s science minister on 7 June and explained to him the problems with its partnerships. They say that the minister promised to try to engage with the complaints to understand the problems and to “find a durable solution”.

They also argue that another missive, signed by 31 GVO scientists and technicians earlier this month, does not, as some of the institute’s partners have suggested, negate the content of the letter to the president. In that missive, the 31 signatories said they were not aware of the letter to the president and did not recognise its contents. The latest letter argues this only means they had not been consulted.

The 52 scientists and technicians who have signed the latest letter say that the company is open to partnerships, as long as they are fair. “Researchers and technicians of the GVO reiterate the fact that the observatory is open to win-win partnerships characterised by mutual respect at national, regional and international level,” they state, adding: “[The observatory] can no longer accept that one partner or a group of partners monopolise cooperation with GVO.”