On Friday June 3th 2011, the Catholic University of Leuven sacked researcher Barbara Van Dyck because of her participation in the actions of Field Liberation Movement (FLM) against a genetically modified potato field in Wetteren, Belgium on Sunday May 29th.

In a few days only, a petition to request the withdrawal of the dismissal of Barbara Van Dyck was signed by more than 4000 people, including academics, human rights and environmental activists, and many concerned citizens.

The controversy around the dismissal of Barbara Van Dyck from KULeuven and the arguments used to justify it, is the symptom of a deeper malaise. It reveals the restructuration of the university into a science enterprise, increasingly dependent on industrial and other outsider interests, market mechanisms, and competition. Science has come to be seen mainly as a purveyor of technological innovation and increased competitiveness on a globalized market. This shift not only restricts the choice of research topics and curricula but also threatens the quality of the knowledge produced.

Confronted with this, we need to defend and promote ‘slow science’. Just like the ‘slow food’ movement defends qualitative food against fast food, slow science urges rethinking the current university, against the fast, competitive, benchmarked research. It urges rethinking the current academic climate, against the dominant and unilateral focus on ‘output’ and against academic authorities turned into repressive business managers. The principles and conditions of free and critical research have to  be fiercely defended

A plea for Slow Science, 2011 by Isabelle Stengers here
She explains how Slow Science is about quality of research. and explains in detail how

the Wetteren potatoes were not enrolled in a disinterested quest for knowledge. But they were not even enrolled in the production of any kind of knowledge concerning them. They were mainly meant to test, or more precisely, to promote, the acceptability of genetically modified potatoes the BASF consortium has created, in the very country where potatoes are sacred. It has something of a very daring marketing campaign to promote “The potato of the future” in the country of the fried potatoes

More info here

You can find the public lecture online :

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