Defending student researchers: our most valuable scientific resource

The following is a repost of an OpEd piece that I wrote and that was published in the Daily Bruin on October 28, 2014.

 

At UCLA, we endeavor to teach you – our students – the knowledge and skills that you will need to contribute to a better world. For many of you, the experience on campus is not complete without playing a deep role in transformational research. But in addition to your contributions to scientific exploration, we encourage you to take on the heavy duty of participating in public life to help society make important decisions based on facts and rational judgment: Should we vaccinate children? Is the Earth really warming up? Is it necessary to explore our solar system and outer space? Should we use animals in medical research? These are just a few examples.

But some people are working hard to ensure that your voice is never heard.

A recent Daily Bruin article, “Animal rights activist groups target student vivisectionists,” which was published on Oct. 23, indicates that animal rights groups are trying to target students who participate in life science and medical research at universities in the U.S. and the U.K. that involves experimentation on animals. They are opposed to this research, despite the fact that it is crucial to medical progress, well regulated and ethically justifiable. Having failed to use reason and civil debate to adequately advance their ideas with the broader public, they now quite cynically opt to offer rewards to those who expose student researchers, thereby enabling the intimidation and harassment of those identified.

Their obvious goal is to harass you out of your studies and research and to prevent the future that will lead to new therapies and cures of tomorrow.

I know their tactics well, because for more than five years, animal rights activists have worked day and night to suppress my voice and my research that deals with the causes and treatments for addictions. They firebombed my car. They sent me razor blades in the mail. They have harassed me and my loved ones with endless home demonstrations, where they scream their threats and obscenities. They want to ensure that I am unable to express my humanity, my ideas and my work. They believe their right to speak stands above those of others.

All Bruins should unanimously reject such hateful behavior. You should feel proud to be contributing to science and understand that you never need to fear exposure for selflessly engaging in essential scientific research. Like me, I am sure your friends, your family and your peers understand that you have made personal sacrifices to make sure that scientific research improves the future for all mankind. You are a good person who chooses to improve the world through science and knowledge, rather than through hatred and anger. Destruction is easy. Creation, discovery and progress can be hard.

But creation cannot be stopped.

As the famed poet Pablo Neruda once wrote:

“Podrán cortar todas las flores, pero no podrán detener la primavera.”

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

Animal rights groups may be able to prune the flowers, but they’ll never stop the surge of the spring that comes from our tireless and noble work.

Be a proud scientist.

Embrace it. Live it.

I stand with you.

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