Indonesia, home to Southeast Asia’s largest tropical rainforest and more than 17,500 islands, is a country rich in biodiversity and endangered species. However, scientists studying the region’s species and ecosystems are banned from Indonesia, and conservation plans are blocked.
In a letter published in the journal Current Biology on July 10, a group of conservation researchers with long-term experience in Indonesia discussed the scientific suppression and other research challenges they witnessed while working in the region. They offer suggestions on how to promote environmental conservation, protect data transparency, and share research with the public in this and other regions of the world.
“If you look at the Earth’s heat map, and where the endangered species are, Indonesia and that whole region doesn’t show up on the charts,” said tropical environmental scientist William F. Laurance in James Cook University, who has been researching the environmental impacts of development in Southeast Asia for over a decade.
Laurance and his co-authors say they feel drawn to raising awareness about the issues facing conservation in Indonesia because during their work in the region, they have witnessed many instances where the governments and corporations obstruct research—including themselves.
For example, they wrote in the letter, in 2022, five leading conservation researchers will be banned from working in Indonesia on the premise that they have “negative intentions” to “undermine the government.”
The researchers discussed papers on forest conservation and wildlife management in Sumatra, where the teams had several colleagues from Indonesia who refused co-authorship “due to concerns that it might affect their funding.” , research permits, or opportunities for commercial contracts in Indonesia.”
“The researchers said, ‘Well, no, you can’t tell that story, even if it’s true, and you can’t identify me or include all the relevant details.’ And it kept happening over and over again. ‘It’s a climate of fear,'” Laurance said.
In order to protect environmental research in Indonesia and the contributors who work on it, Laurance and his team suggest that organizations that fund research in the region require data transparency for the studies they support. They also recommend the implementation and use of online “safe houses” (whistleblower websites designed to protect anonymity and leakage of information) and anonymous journals (publications where whistleblowers are not named contribution).
They say these interventions will help researchers get information out to the public without worrying about the consequences of being personally tied to their findings.
The authors note that many organizations are advocating for change, especially in Indonesia. Some examples of these groups include the Indonesian Caucus for Academic Freedom and the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation, which organizes in support of conservation and prevention efforts to silence researchers. They also noted that “repression of science is by no means unique to Indonesia.”
“I think scientists have a serious responsibility to try to communicate what is happening in the world. What is happening here is a bigger problem than gets discussed,” said Laurance. “There must be a way to get the information, but scientists in many countries are struggling.”
William F Laurance, For Indonesia and beyond, environmental conservation requires independent science, Current Biology (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.04.068. www.cell.com/current-biology/f … 0960-9822(23)00550-X
Citation: Conservation in Indonesia at risk, say scientists studying region (2023, July 10) retrieved on July 11, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-indonesia-scientists-region. html
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