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Mix of Science and Politics

The recent Russian crackdown on groups with foreign ties is likely to carry over to influence what sort of science can be performed, writes Fyodor Kondrashov a research professor at the Center for Genomic Regulation in a column at Nature.

Earlier this summer, the Russian Justice Ministry labeled the Dynasty Foundation, which supported science and education in Russia through grants, a foreign agent, as its founder, entrepreneur Dmitry Zimin financed it through foreign bank accounts, a move that forced the foundation to close.

Kondrashov says that "the government's treatment of Dynasty Foundation marks an unwelcome return to the inseparability of science and ideology in Russia." He recalls how politics influenced what his grandparents' and parents' generations could study as scientists in Russia.

Further, he notes that a number of Russian institutes have partnered with foreign universities and institutions. For instance, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helped create and continues to collaborate with the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow. But, such partnerships are now threatened as the climate becomes "hostile to academic freedom," Kondrashov says.

"The guarantee of political and civil liberties is an essential condition for the maintenance of a successful research culture, and the ongoing encroachment on democratic freedoms in Russia reduces its appeal as a place for research even further," he adds.