Criminalisation of Scientific Research

Last year, there was a media report in Indonesia about police investigation unit summons the Indonesian tsunami scientist (Widjo Kongko) and the seminar event organizer because of ‘statements that caused concerns’ about the tsunami threat in Banten coastal area. The police said that the statements cause anxiety among citizens and investors which could potentially create a disruption in development. Meanwhile, the event itself was a seminar which disseminate results of his academic, scientific research which have its own methodology and limitation. However, the journalist/mainstream media sometimes fails to understand (or choose not to?).

In my opinion the case above is the unintended effect of open data/research. I think the responsibility of a researcher is to present the fact based on their scientific analysis despite whether the public will like it or not. Meanwhile, during a seminar or media workshop, journalist might want to create a ‘buzz’ or attention towards the issue that the researcher was talking about. However, regardless of the intention, public reception will always be varied.

Furthermore, research result could be used as a political tool. As the police said above, they are worried that the news could divert the investors from investing in the area. However, research is still partly a fact (since the projection contains lots of variables, assumptions, etc). Therefore, any political affiliation could use the study as the basis of their arguments in relation with certain issues. Even though in my opinion particularly his research should be part of consideration in conducting future development of coastal area in Indonesia.

A good example in this case I think the research that related with climate change issues. Whereas people were being sceptical at first, but now, as the impact is can be felt more widely, and the prove is everywhere, accessible by public, which caused to people starting to act and the world leader (at least) trying find the solutions.

The solution that I can think to reduce the ‘unintended effect of open data/research’ is to create a media communication about ‘academic literacy’ for general public. Maybe through an infographic, or short video which could provide a ‘how to’ understand structure in academic literature and also recognize the limitation of a research. This is also to avoid ‘hoax news’ which sometimes utilizing academic articles to justify the false news.

Maybe this is an old story, but I’m still wondering maybe there’s other experience or stories that you’ve ever heard from your country or somewhere around you.