Science and expertise under fire: The emerging threat of censorship

Science and expertise under fire: The emerging threat of censorship

Author: Esa Väliverronen – University of Helsinki, Finland


  • Sampsa Saikkonen – University of Helsinki, Finland

Restrictions to the freedom of science and the public expression of researchers have become more prominent around the world in the last decade. In this presentation, we will analyse the academic freedom and freedom of expression of researchers in the context of authoritarian populism. Our focus is particularly on the increasing online hate, aggressive feedback and the politically motivated disparagement of science and expertise .

With recent international examples of the suppression of research as well as the silencing of scientists as public experts, we aim to provide an analytical framework to gain an understanding of the suppression of scientists in these turbulent times.

Our particular focus is in Finland. The presentation is based on three web surveys conducted among Finnish researchers in 2015, 2017 and 2019. We will focus on answers on the open-ended questions in these surveys, where respondents reflect upon issues of freedom of expression and the feedback they receive in public arenas.

Building on previous research on academic freedom, ‘research silencing’ and the ‘chilling effect’, we discuss the connection between freedom of expression and academic freedom. We make a distinction between four forms of hidden censorship: political and economic control, organizational control, control between rival academics and control from below, e.g. from ordinary citizens. Moreover, we make explicit and discuss the means, motives and practices of hidden censorship within each of these four forms.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation