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Government: publicly funded scientists won't be gagged by anti-lobbying law ()

Publicly-funded scientists won't face restrictions on discussing their findings under an anti-lobbying law, the government has confirmed.  

Scientists who provide expert opinions to government will not be restricted by the anti-lobbying clause intended to bar recipients of government funding from: "activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action."

Parliamentary secretary Lord George Bridges of Headley, on April 18, said "the new clause will not prevent recipients from performing activities that are part of the intended purpose of the grant" and on the following day confirmed that "grant recipients can continue to discuss the findings of publicly funded research with government or Parliament, whether that be giving evidence or in an advisory capacity," as reported by Nature.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson further clarified in a statement: "I am happy to confirm that it is not our intention for the Research Councils, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) or the National Academies to be covered by the clause. We are continuing to talk to the research community and will outline more detail by 1 May, when this clause takes effect."

Announced on February 6, the clause was originally developed to prevent pressure groups from applying for government grants that would then be used to fund government lobbying and political campaigning about their chosen causes.

It's attracted criticism due to its broad and ambiguous wording, which left scientists wondering whether they'd be barred from discussing the implications of their research and findings.

Johnson said that he has "been talking to the research community and working hard with colleagues in government to determine what clarification may be necessary to ensure that research is not adversely affected in any way". However, it's not currently clear whether scientists will receive a full exemption from the requirement that the clause be added to grant agreements, or a have to sign a modified version of the clause.

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