Gagging clauses revealed between oil giants and museums

Is Science Being Silenced?

Image Credit: Geograph
The Science Museum in London and the Norwegian oil and gas company Equinor have recently come under scrutiny for a gag clause in their sponsorship contract.

Similar cases have occurred in the past with other oil companies (e.g. the Natural History Museum and a Danish oil company). The clause prevents the museum from making any statement that could damage the sponsor's reputation. Many are concerned about the impact this has on the museum's credibility and whether science can truly be unbiased when it is legally bound to remain silent. Critics question whether it is the duty of scientists to report the truth rather than take money from international oil companies.

Equinor had record annual earnings of £62bn that juxtapose uncomfortably with the burden of the energy crisis and soaring cost of living experienced by ordinary people.

The Science Museum's latest exhibition 'Wonderlab' aims to 'inspire curiosity and fuel imagination' through interactive experiences. However, certain topics are off-limits due to the gag clause, leading to filtered information. While the museum and Equinor claim that the clause is standard practice in sponsorship contracts, it raises concerns among environmental groups about the museum's ability to discuss the true impact of the oil and gas sector on the environment. The amount of money exchanged for the sponsorship has not been disclosed.

Equinor had record annual earnings of £62bn that juxtapose uncomfortably with the burden of the energy crisis and soaring cost of living experienced by ordinary people. Critics argue that the museum has lost credibility by not being able to discuss the true impact of the oil and gas sector while Museums claim that large corporate sponsors do not significantly influence the exhibitions. However, insiders have revealed attempts by oil companies to control presentations of climate change programs. The Science Museum has stated that it will no longer include gagging clauses in new agreements. The sponsorship agreement with Equinor ended in March 2022, but many still believe that the damage done to the museum's credibility will take a long time to repair.

Scientists are traditionally discouraged from engaging in political activity and discourse in case it impinges on the credibility of their research. However, there is a difference between allowing your worldview to impact your research and your research informing your worldview. Scientific findings must meet the basic criteria of being repeatable. Manipulated results, and omitted evidence, are unlikely to be replicated and therefore exposed.

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AUTHOR: Francesca Read-Cutting
Marine Biology Undergraduate

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