12/19/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Study: Republicans Stymie Sensitive Medical Research

Important US research to reduce HIV infection may have been prevented in recent years because scientists have censored their funding requests in response to political controversy, according to a study published on Tuesday.

Writing in PLoS Medicine, the academic journal, Joanna Kempner from Rutgers University identified a "chilling effect" on researchers seeking grants from the government-backed National Institutes of Health after their work was questioned by Republican lawmakers and Christian groups.

The findings suggest politics influence scientists' willingness to conduct research, and raise warnings at a time of continued sensitivity over medical research topics from sexual behaviour to stem cells.

Among 82 researchers polled by Ms Kempner, who had received money from the NIH, almost a quarter had dropped or reframed studies around sexual behaviour they judged to be politically sensitive, and four had made career changes and left academia as a result of the controversy.

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