Violence shuts science? Err…

Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is news.

I’m reminded of this adage of the news industry – and Nambi Narayanan’s comment in August 2022 – when I read reports like ‘Explosion of violence in Ecuador shuts down science’ (Science, January 13, 2024). An “explosion of violence” in a country should reasonably be expected to affect all walks of life, so what’s the value in focusing a news report only on science and those who practice it? It’s not like we have news reports headlined “explosion of violence in Ecuador shuts down fruit shops”.

There are little tidbits in the article that might be useful to other researchers in Ecuador, but it’s unlikely they’re looking for it in Science, which is a foreign publishing reporting on Ecuador for an audience that’s mostly outside the country.

The only bit I found really worth dwelling on was this one paragraph:

The Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN) … went further. It canceled all fieldwork this week and next, says Manual Peralvo, a geographer and project coordinator. He adds that CONDESAN plans to design a stricter security protocol for future projects that involve fieldwork. “We’re going to have to plan our schedules much more specifically to know who is where and at what time,” and to avoid dangerous areas, he says.

… yet it’s just one paragraph, before the narrative moves on to how the country’s new security protocols will “deter non-Ecuadorian funding and scientists”. I’d have liked the report to drop everything else and focus on how research centres organise and administer fieldwork when field-workers are at risk of physical violence.

If anything, there may be no opportunity cost associated with such stories – except for the authors and publishers of such reports (i.e. in its current form) suggesting they believe science is somehow more special than other human endeavours.