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Lobbying Rule May Affect UK Researchers

A new lobbying ban in the UK may prevent scientists from weighing in on legislation or policy, Nature News reports.

Under new rules, any group that receives government funding is prohibited from using that money to influence the government. This, Nature News says, could be interpreted to mean that researchers at UK institutions "are not allowed to tell ministers what the policy implications of their work are, or respond to consultations that touch on their area of interest — potentially removing their ability to comment on everything from climate change to medical regulation."

This seems to be an unintended consequence, Nature News adds. Researchers appear to have gotten caught up in an effort to prevent charities and other groups from using government funds to lobby for even more support, Bob Ward, from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment tells them.

If an exception isn't granted for researchers, they will have to fund any activities that could be construed as lobbying themselves.

"The government is taking steps through this clause to ensure taxpayer funds are not misused. Guidance published by the Cabinet Office outlines how departments are able to make qualifications to the clause, and we are working with stakeholders to determine how this might apply to the research base," a Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills spokesperson tells Nature News.