ASTMH Statement: ​Science Not Politics

Posted 14 May 2020

Science Not Politics: Stand Up For the Integrity of the Scientific Peer-Review Process

An independent and impartial scientific process and robust support for global research collaborations have been indispensable in making the United States the world leader in biomedical research and establishing the NIH as the world’s premier medical research enterprise.

Independent and impartial processes are the cornerstone of science and are at the heart of the NIH peer-review process. This gold standard ensures that grants are evaluated by impartial scientific experts in a manner free from non-scientific influences. Every stakeholder and participant in the NIH peer-review process shares responsibility in maintaining and upholding the integrity of an independent review based on scientific merit. As a whole, NIH-funded research seeds an increased understanding of disease and, in the best of outcomes, will lead to the development of effective treatments, vaccines and cures for infectious and non-infectious diseases and conditions to be shared with every American and everyone in the world.

It is because of this fundamental and widespread belief in rigorous science, free from outside interference, that we raise the alarm at what appears to be political interference in the scientific process. Recently, an EcoHealth Alliance grant, “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” was terminated abruptly and without cause. This NIAID-funded grant included a partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and was in its sixth year. Last year, following a peer review, it was renewed for five years. This now-canceled grant was studying how dangerous viruses jump from bats to humans, research that is critical to understanding the origin and spread of viruses like SARS-CoV2, the virus causing the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

A free and independent scientific enterprise must be protected. Outside influences that are ill informed and appear politically driven run contrary to an independent scientific agenda that spurs innovation, fuels the economy and inspires the next generation of leaders. We must all stand up for the integrity of the scientific peer-review process.