academic freedom

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The right of scholars to study and report on any problem that their curiosity and conscience dictate, without fear of retribution. This right may be infringed when studies are paid for by governments, industries, or faith-based groups that exert their authority to suppress, censor, or alter findings, forbid certain lines of inquiry, or interfere with the dissemination of results. Such infringement can harm personal and population health, for instance when a pharmaceutical corporation suppresses findings that cast doubt on the safety or efficacy of drugs, and when governments influenced by security concerns, commercial lobby groups, ideology, or political pressure impede dissemination of impartial objective information, such as about aspects of environmental health or human reproduction. Academic freedom also may be perverted by vocal or aggressive ideologues within or outside the academic community who may use it to promote a specific cause. Public health scientists conducting clinical trials and evaluating environmental risks have been among victims of infringed academic freedom.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology — History of the Americas.

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