By the Board of Directors*
Monday morning Dr. Joan Donovan, represented by Whistleblower Aid, filed a disclosure with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Department of Education alleging that the dissolution of her research team within Harvard’s Kennedy School was a result of undue corporate pressure connected to a $500M donation made to the university by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Dr. Donovan’s allegations of threats to academic freedom are serious and should be investigated fairly and fully by the appropriate authorities. Independent research is urgently needed to inform public debates about how social media companies like Meta are shaping our societies. We must not allow those companies to set the terms of that research. Universities that accept significant donations from technology companies must take measures to protect the scholarly independence of any researchers who study those corporations within their institution—especially junior researchers, adjunct faculty and those working under precarious employment conditions or contracts.
Our Coalition aims to advance a research ecosystem that is independent of undue influence from corporations or governments, so that the societies and communities we live in may be the true beneficiaries of public interest research. This vision can be realized only if allegations of threats to academic freedom, such as those made by Dr. Donovan, are thoroughly investigated when they arise.
*Dr. James Mickens and Dr. David Lazer are members of the Coalition’s Board of Directors and also hold positions at Harvard University. They therefore recused themselves from the drafting and approval of this statement.