I’m just back from Washington DC, where we held the first US meeting of COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics). Engraved onto the building housing part of the National Academy of Sciences is a quote from Einstein which could serve as the COPE motto if we had one. It reads: “The right to search for truth also implies a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”
Intrigued by this quote (which I have to admit I hadn’t come across before) I wanted some more context, and discovered that it comes from a piece on academic freedom which Einstein wrote in 1954, which was the height of the McCarthy witch hunts.
The full text reads: “By academic freedom I understand the right to search for truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right also implies a duty: one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true. It is evident that any restriction of academic freedom acts in such a way as to hamper the dissemination of knowledge among the people and thereby impedes rational judgment and action.”
Back here in the UK, where the dismissal of the government’s science advisor, David Nutt, is still resonating in the press, these words seemed especially relevant.