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SDI Threatens More Than Academic Freedom

I take exception to the article by Jack Ruina (The Scientist, February 23, 1987, p. 12), which contends that there should be no organized pressure within universities against accepting SDI research funding. He discusses the political nature of this pressure but neglects to add that there is political pressure from the other side bearing on funding allotments and the funding process. Funds for research do not come out of a vacuum, but are the result of political processes within an administration

By | May 4, 1987

I take exception to the article by Jack Ruina (The Scientist, February 23, 1987, p. 12), which contends that there should be no organized pressure within universities against accepting SDI research funding. He discusses the political nature of this pressure but neglects to add that there is political pressure from the other side bearing on funding allotments and the funding process.

Funds for research do not come out of a vacuum, but are the result of political processes within an administration and Congress; SDI research funding is such an example. My feeling is that scientists can resist the pressure and should be free to communicate their resistance to other scientists. We are under no obligation to accept political money just because it comes as manna from heaven.

Ruina thinks that organized resistance on campuses is "inimical to the fragile academic enterprise," and I agree. But I would also add that the consequences of operational SDI are so horrendous for the fragility of our Earth that academic integrity pales before a nuclear arms race becoming out of control, possibly ending in the obliteration of universities.

—Philip Siekevitz
Rockefeller University,
1230 York Ave. New York, NY 10021

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