Commercial and government pressure are harming academic science and eroding democracy, the organiser of a conference on academic freedom held at the British Academy London warned this week.
David Packham, a materials scientist at the University of Bath, said:
"Universities in a democracy traditionally serve society as providers of research that is independent of market forces."
But governments have placed heavy emphasis on the "need" for science to serve the economy and have linked research funding to relevance to industry, he said.
The conference, organised by the Council for Academic Autonomy and the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards, heard numerous case studies where external influences seem to have influenced research decisions. Problems emerging from this close association "call into question whether the ability of universities to fulfil their vital independent role is being compromised", Dr Packham said.