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A brown-haired woman at a podium in front of a blue screen

U.K. secretary of state for science, innovation and technology Michelle Donelan at the Oct. 3 Conservative Party conference, where she promised to “depoliticize science.”

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Scientific researchers are strongly denouncing a promise from Conservative Party leaders in the United Kingdom to “kick woke ideology out of science.” 

On Oct. 3, Michelle Donelan, the country’s secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, told a party conference that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government would protect scientific research “from the denial of biology,” claiming that scientists are being “told by university bureaucrats that they cannot ask legitimate research questions about biological sex.”

In response, over 2,000 scientists have signed an open letter denouncing Donelan’s comments, which they said “do not reflect the view of UK scientists.” 

“On the contrary, many are appalled, saddened, and angry that the government claims to be speaking for science in this way,” read the letter, sent to Sunak and Donelan on Oct. 11.

The scientists also rejected what they called Donelan’s “over-simplistic or scientifically illiterate arguments” about the difference between gender identity and biological definitions of sex. They said her proposal would only serve to make scientific research more political and less trustworthy in the eyes of the public.

The debate over how much oxygen to give scientific claims that deny the validity of transgender individuals’ identities or refute notions of gender fluidity has been increasingly fraught, and frequently headline catching, in the realm of academic science.

Two weeks ago the American Anthropological Association canceled a panel on the importance of “biological sex” as a social and scientific category at its annual conference, causing an uproar from proponents of what is often called gender-critical feminism.