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Security and Science

Researchers at the A. N. Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology at Lomonosov Moscow State University have been told they have to get their research manuscripts approved by the state security service before they can submit them to journals or conferences, Nature News reports. These instructions, it adds, appear in the minutes from a recent meeting.

It also notes that other institutes across Russia are thought to be giving their scientists similar directives.

"This is a return to Soviet times when in order to send a paper to an international journal, we had to get a permission specifying that the result is not new and important and hence may be published abroad," Mikhail Gelfand, a bioinformatician at MSU, tells Nature News.

Russia passed a law in 1993 that required researchers to get permission from the Federal Security Service before they could publish results that could have military or industrial significance, Nature News says, noting that it typically covered weapons research. But this past spring, President Vladimir Putin expanded the law to cover results that could be used to develop new products, Nature News adds.

"The problem is that it appears that all scientific output is being treated as potentially classified," Fyodor Kondrashov, a Russian biologist at the Center for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona says. "This creates an unhealthy research climate with some scientists preferring not to share information."

Sergey Salikhov, director of the Russian science ministry's science and technology department, tells Nature News that the amendment is not intended to restrict the publication of basic research.