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The Pakistan government's handling of its investigation into whether Pakistani scientists leaked nuclear technology to Iran is causing widespread concern — particularly because some of the scientists have not been seen by their families since being taken in for questioning.

This editorial in Nature argues that the government's approach to the affair is also diverting attention away from what are perhaps the most far-reaching reforms to Pakistan's science for more than 20 years. Led by minister for research and higher education, Atta-ur-Rahman, the country has increased its budget for science and technology 60-fold since 1999, and has increased wages for researchers.

But high-quality research needs more than money and good ideas. It needs an environment that supports democracy; the freedom to think, write and publish; an appreciation of the value of multiculturalism; and the rule of law. Rahman should now make it clear that lasting reforms need more than an injection of cash, and that there should be no return to the 'bad old days'.

Link to full editorial in Nature

Reference: Nature 427, 379 (2004)