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Patently damaging

Evidence suggests nations that curb researchers’ liberty pay a price in innovation, says John Whitfield

Freedom gets a lot of lip service. Nearly every country on earth has ratified the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Among other things, it commits signatories to “respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity”. 

But on 2 March this year’s update to the Academic Freedom Index reported that, for more than half the world’s population, academic freedom is falling. The AFI, produced by the V-Dem institute in Gothenburg, is based upon assessments from more than 2,000 experts worldwide, resulting in a score ranging from zero to one. It considers factors including teaching, institutional autonomy and freedom of expression.

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