Science Europe head warns rise of far right could hurt research

Mari Sundli Tveit says academia depends on ‘openness, cross-border cooperation and mobility’

February 19, 2024
Mari Sundli Tveit
Source: The Research Council of Norway

The new president of Science Europe has issued a warning over the rise of the far right across the continent, warning that it “undermines the values” that “science relies on”.

Mari Sundli Tveit, who was elected to lead the group representing research funders across the continent, told Times Higher Education that the far right “stokes anti-expert, anti-science views”, among them climate change denial, and “promotes closing borders and hostilities”.

Her comments come ahead of June’s European Parliament elections, which forecasters predict will see significant gains for the populist right.

A recent report by the European Council on Foreign Relations anticipates a “sharp right turn” in the elections, listing “Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Slovakia” as countries where “anti-European populists are likely to top the polls”.

Professor Sundli Tveit said that science depended on “openness, cross-border cooperation and mobility”.

“The resurgence of right-wing politics across Europe is a concern for science if they aim to limit or eliminate scientific freedom,” Professor Sundli Tveit said. “Research is, by definition, open, and collaboration needs the free circulation of ideas and people to be most useful for society.”

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Despite the upcoming challenges, Professor Sundli Tveit, who is also chief executive of the Research Council of Norway, said it was a “privilege” to take on the leadership of Science Europe.

“We’re living in very challenging times. It will take research, innovation and education for us to face all these challenges,” she said. “Science Europe has become a very strong voice for European research. And it’s very necessary now for us to keep developing the system and the framework for research to prosper.”

Boosting European investment in research and innovation, Professor Sundli Tveit told THE, was essential to the creation of a “critical mass of knowledge to address societal challenges”.

In January, Science Europe, the European University Association and the European Association of Research and Technology Organisations published an open letter to the European commissioner for research and innovation, Iliana Ivanova, calling for the budget for Framework Programme 10, the successor to Horizon Europe, to be doubled to €200 billion (£171 billion).

Improving public trust in science, Professor Sundli Tveit said, was also among Science Europe’s missions. “The rapid pace of technological developments and the complexity of scientific infrastructure and research required to deliver that advancement can sometimes lead to misunderstanding or mistrust,” she said. “Fostering a more informed and engaged public is crucial to engendering societal faith in our scientific institutions and professionals.”

Science Europe’s approaches to building public trust, Professor Sundli Tveit said, include promoting diamond open access – which is typically free to authors and to readers – “as a standard model for scientific publishing”, engaging in educational initiatives and facilitating “open dialogues between scientists and the public” through lectures, forums and citizen science projects.

Such efforts, Professor Sundli Tveit said, “will not only demystify the scientific process but also allow for meaningful interactions that promote mutual understanding and trust”.

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Reader's comments (1)

The Far Left also undermines the values which the writer speaks of.